Neurotropic viral infections are a major source of disease worldwide and represent a growing burden to public health. While the central nervous system (CNS) is normally protected from viral infection by the blood-brain barrier (BBB), many viruses are able to cross the BBB and establish CNS infection through processes that largely remain poorly understood. A growing body of recent research has begun to shed light on the viral and host factors that modulate BBB function, contributing to both protective and pathological disease processes. Central to these studies have been the actions of host cytokines and chemokines, which have increasingly been shown to be key regulators of BBB physiology. This review summarizes recent advances in understanding how BBB function governs both viral pathogenesis and host immune responses during neurotropic viral infections.