Medicinal plants are one of the most important sources of antiviral agents and lead compounds. Lignans are a large class of natural compounds comprising two phenyl propane units. Many of them have demonstrated biological activities, and some of them have even been developed as therapeutic drugs. In this review, 630 lignans, including those obtained from medicinal plants and their chemical derivatives, were systematically reviewed for their antiviral activity and mechanism of action. The compounds discussed herein were published in articles between 1998 and 2020. The articles were identified using both database searches (e.g., Web of Science, Pub Med and Scifinder) using key words such as: antiviral activity, antiviral effects, lignans, HBV, HCV, HIV, HPV, HSV, JEV, SARS-CoV, RSV and influenza A virus, and directed searches of scholarly publisher’s websites including ACS, Elsevier, Springer, Thieme, and Wiley. The compounds were classified on their structural characteristics as 1) arylnaphthalene lignans, 2) aryltetralin lignans, 3) dibenzylbutyrolactone lignans, 4) dibenzylbutane lignans, 5) tetrahydrofuranoid and tetrahydrofurofuranoid lignans, 6) benzofuran lignans, 7) neolignans, 8) dibenzocyclooctadiene lignans and homolignans, and 9) norlignans and other lignoids. Details on isolation and antiviral activities of the most active compounds within each class of lignan are discussed in detail, as are studies of synthetic lignans that provide structure–activity relationship information.