Dendritic cells (DC) are major players in both innate and adaptive immune responses against influenza virus. These immune responses, as well as the important interface between the innate and adaptive systems, are orchestrated by specialized subsets of DC, including conventional steady-state DC, migratory DC and plasmacytoid DC. The characteristics and efficacy of the responses are dependent on the relative activity of these DC subsets, rendering DC crucial for the development of both naïve and memory immune responses. However, due to their critical role, DC also contribute to the immunopathological processes observed during acute influenza, such as that caused by the pathogenic H5N1 viruses. Therein, the role of different DC subsets in the induction of interferon type I, proinflammatory cytokine and chemokine responses is important for the outcome of interaction between the virus and host immune defences. The present review will present current knowledge on this area, relating to the importance of DC activity for the induction of efficacious humoral and cell-mediated immune responses. This will include the main viral elements associated with the triggering or inhibition of DC activation. Finally, the current knowledge on understanding how differences in various vaccines influence the manner of immune defence induction will be presented.