Regardless of their applications, polymers are still considered mechanically weak and functionally insufficient for certain demanding coating and adhesive uses. To address those issues, nanomaterials have been extensively studied as reinforcing fillers, which have been proven to effectively promote the performance of polymer coatings/adhesives. However, conventional nanofillers are expensive and non-biodegradable. Meanwhile, cellulose nanomaterials (CNMs), a class of nanomaterials produced from biomass feedstocks, can circumvent the drawbacks of conventional nanofillers. This review paper first focuses on the multi-functionalities CNMs bring to polymer coatings, including mechanical reinforcement (wear resistance and hardness enhancement), gas barrier, flame resistance, corrosion resistance, self-healing (controlled-release), optical regulation, self-cleaning/antifouling, and antimicrobial characteristics. Then we discuss the benefits of CNM addition to polymer adhesives, such as mechanical enhancement, curing promotion, volatile organic compound (VOC) suppression, and electrical conductivity. Finally, we provide insights into future research efforts with CNMs. The goal of this paper is to promote the pilot-scale study and commercial use of CNMs as multifunctional additives in green and sustainable polymer composite coating and adhesive formulations.