The innate immune system protects cells against invading viral pathogens by the auto- and paracrine action of type I interferon (IFN). In addition, the interferon regulatory factor (IRF)-1 can induce alternative intrinsic antiviral responses. Although both, type I IFN and IRF-1 mediate their antiviral action by inducing overlapping subsets of IFN stimulated genes, the functional role of this alternative antiviral action of IRF-1 in context of viral infections in vivo remains unknown. Here, we report that IRF-1 is essential to counteract the neuropathology of vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV). IFN- and IRF-1-dependent antiviral responses act sequentially to create a layered antiviral protection program against VSV infections. Upon intranasal infection, VSV is cleared in the presence or absence of IRF-1 in peripheral organs, but IRF-1-/- mice continue to propagate the virus in the brain and succumb. Although rapid IFN induction leads to a decline in VSV titers early on, viral replication is re-enforced in the brains of IRF-1-/- mice. While IFN provides short-term protection, IRF-1 is induced with delayed kinetics and controls viral replication at later stages of infection. IRF-1 has no influence on viral entry but inhibits viral replication in neurons and viral spread through the CNS, which leads to fatal inflammatory responses in the CNS. These data support a temporal, non-redundant antiviral function of type I IFN and IRF-1, the latter playing a crucial role in late time points of VSV infection in the brain.