Glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) is the hallmark intermediate filament (IF; also known as nanofilament) protein in astrocytes, a main type of glial cells in the central nervous system (CNS). Astrocytes have a range of control and homeostatic functions in health and disease. Astrocytes assume a reactive phenotype in acute CNS trauma, ischemia, and in neurodegenerative diseases. This coincides with an upregulation and rearrangement of the IFs, which form a highly complex system composed of GFAP (10 isoforms), vimentin, synemin, and nestin. We begin to unravel the function of the IF system of astrocytes and in this review we discuss its role as an important crisis-command center coordinating cell responses in situations connected to cellular stress, which is a central component of many neurological diseases.