This article presents a review of the current state of the art in the research field of cold and ultracold molecules. It serves as an introduction to the Special Issue of the New Journal of Physics on Cold and Ultracold Molecules and describes new prospects for fundamental research and technological development. Cold and ultracold molecules may revolutionize physical chemistry and few body physics, provide techniques for probing new states of quantum matter, allow for precision measurements of both fundamental and applied interest, and enable quantum simulations of condensed-matter phenomena. Ultracold molecules offer promising applications such as new platforms for quantum computing, precise control of molecular dynamics, nanolithography, and Bose-enhanced chemistry. The discussion is based on recent experimental and theoretical work and concludes with a summary of anticipated future directions and open questions in this rapidly expanding research field.
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