Nature has evolved an array of intricate protein assemblies that work together to perform the chemistry that maintains life. These protein machines function with exquisite specificity and coordination to accomplish their tasks, from DNA and RNA synthesis to protein folding and post-translational modifications. Despite their complexity, synthetic biologists have succeeded in redesigning many aspects of these molecular machines. For example, natural DNA polymerases have now been engineered to catalyze the synthesis of alternative genetic polymers called XNAs, orthogonal RNA polymerases and ribosomes have been engineered to enable the construction of genetic logic gates, and protein biogenesis machinery such as chaperonins and protein translocons have been repurposed to improve folding and expression of recombinant proteins. In this Review, we highlight the progress made in understanding, engineering, and repurposing bacterial protein machines for use in synthetic biology and biotechnology.