Hydrodynamic phenomena are ubiquitous in living organisms and can be used to manipulate cells or emulate physiological microenvironments experienced in vivo. Hydrodynamic effects influence multiple cellular properties and processes, including cell morphology, intracellular processes, cell-cell signaling cascades and reaction kinetics, and play an important role at the single-cell, multicellular, and organ level. Selected hydrodynamic effects can also be leveraged to control mechanical stresses, analyte transport, as well as local temperature within cellular microenvironments. With a better understanding of fluid mechanics at the micrometer-length scale and the advent of microfluidic technologies, a new generation of experimental tools that provide control over cellular microenvironments and emulate physiological conditions with exquisite accuracy is now emerging. Accordingly, we believe that it is timely to assess the concepts underlying hydrodynamic control of cellular microenvironments and their applications and provide some perspective on the future of such tools in in vitro cell-culture models. Generally, we describe the interplay between living cells, hydrodynamic stressors, and fluid flow-induced effects imposed on the cells. This interplay results in a broad range of chemical, biological, and physical phenomena in and around cells. More specifically, we describe and formulate the underlying physics of hydrodynamic phenomena affecting both adhered and suspended cells. Moreover, we provide an overview of representative studies that leverage hydrodynamic effects in the context of single-cell studies within microfluidic systems.