Chemical vapor deposition (CVD) polymerization utilizes the delivery of vapor-phase monomers to form chemically well-defined polymeric films directly on the surface of a substrate. CVD polymers are desirable as conformal surface modification layers exhibiting strong retention of organic functional groups, and, in some cases, are responsive to external stimuli. Traditional wet-chemical chain- and step-growth mechanisms guide the development of new heterogeneous CVD polymerization techniques. Commonality with inorganic CVD methods facilitates the fabrication of hybrid devices. CVD polymers bridge microfabrication technology with chemical, biological, and nanoparticle systems and assembly. Robust interfaces can be achieved through covalent grafting enabling high-resolution (60 nm) patterning, even on flexible substrates. Utilizing only low-energy input to drive selective chemistry, modest vacuum, and room-temperature substrates, CVD polymerization is compatible with thermally sensitive substrates, such as paper, textiles, and plastics. CVD methods are particularly valuable for insoluble and infusible films, including fluoropolymers, electrically conductive polymers, and controllably crosslinked networks and for the potential to reduce environmental, health, and safety impacts associated with solvents. Quantitative models aid the development of large-area and roll-to-roll CVD polymer reactors. Relevant background, fundamental principles, and selected applications are reviewed.