Native plant cellulose has an intrinsic supramolecular structure. Consequently, it can be isolated as nanocellulose species, which can be utilized as building blocks for renewable nanomaterials. The structure of cellulose also permits its end-wise modification, i.e., chemical reactions exclusively on one end of a cellulose chain or a nanocellulose particle. The premises for end-wise modification have been known for decades. Nevertheless, different approaches for the reactions have emerged only recently, because of formidable synthetic and analytical challenges associated with the issue, including the adverse reactivity of the cellulose reducing end and the low abundance of newly introduced functionalities. This Review gives a full account of the scientific underpinnings and challenges related to end-wise modification of cellulose nanocrystals. Furthermore, we present how the chemical modification of cellulose nanocrystal ends may be applied to directed assembly, resulting in numerous possibilities for the construction of new materials, such as responsive liquid crystal templates and composites with tailored interactions.