Complement is a complex protein network of plasma, and an integral part of the innate immune system. Complement activation results in the rapid clearance of bacteria by immune cells, and direct bacterial killing via large pore-forming complexes. Here we review important recent discoveries in the complement field, focusing on interactions relevant for the defense against bacteria. Understanding the molecular interplay between complement and bacteria is of great importance for future therapies for infectious and inflammatory diseases. Antibodies that support complement-dependent bacterial killing are of interest for the development of alternative therapies to treat infections with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Furthermore, a variety of novel therapeutic complement inhibitors have been developed to prevent unwanted complement activation in autoimmune inflammatory diseases. A better understanding of how such inhibitors may increase the risk of bacterial infections is essential if such therapies are to be successful.