Although their central role is to control bleeding and to induce thrombosis, platelets are important inflammatory and immune cells as well as modulators of angiogenesis. This review focuses on the different roles of platelets in hemostasis, thrombosis, inflammation, arteriosclerosis, angiogenesis, antimicrobial host defense and hematogenous tumor metastasis. Platelets are the central regulators of hemostasis. On their surface the important thrombin burst takes place. Platelets cause atherothrombotic vascular occlusions. However, they are probably involved in early stages of arteriosclerosis, e.g. extravasation of leukocytes at sites of vascular injury, formation of foam cells and proliferation of smooth muscle cells. These processes are triggered by secretion of proinflammatory substances and growth factors as well as by platelet-cell interactions via specific adhesive axes. During infections platelets kill pathogens through secretion of antimicrobial substances and extracellular traps or nets. Platelets facilitate the revascularisation of ischemic tissue and therefore even promote tumor growth.