Antibiotics have transformed modern medicine. They are essential for treating infectious diseases and enable vital therapies and procedures. However, despite this success, their continued use in the 21st century is imperiled by two orthogonal challenges. The first is that the microbes targeted by these drugs evolve resistance to them over time. The second is that antibiotic discovery and development are no longer cost-effective using traditional reimbursement models. Consequently, there are a dwindling number of companies and laboratories dedicated to delivering new antibiotics, resulting in an anemic pipeline that threatens our control of infections. The future of antibiotics requires innovation in a field that has relied on highly traditional methods of discovery and development. This will require substantial changes in policy, quantitative understanding of the societal value of these drugs, and investment in alternatives to traditional antibiotics. These include narrow-spectrum drugs, bacteriophage, monoclonal antibodies, and vaccines, coupled with highly effective diagnostics. Addressing the antibiotic crisis to meet our future needs requires considerable investment in both research and development, along with ensuring a viable marketplace that encourages innovation. This review explores the past, present, and future of antimicrobial therapy.