Rapid onset of acute inflammation is a hallmark of critical illnesses that bring patients to the intensive care unit (ICU). In critical illness, innate T cells rapidly reach full activation and drive a robust acute inflammatory response. As “cellular adjuvants,” innate T cells worsen inflammation and mortality in several common critical illnesses including sepsis, ischemia-reperfusion injury, stroke, and exacerbations of respiratory disease. Interestingly, innate T cell subsets can also promote a protective and anti-inflammatory response in sepsis, ischemia-reperfusion injury, and asthma. Therapies that target innate T cells have been validated in several models of critical illness. Here, we review the role of natural killer T (NKT) cells, mucosal-associated invariant T (MAIT) cells and gammadelta T cells in clinical and experimental critical illness.