Cellulose nanofibrils (CNFs) have attracted a great deal of research interest in recent years attributable to the low cost and abundance of lignocellulosic biomass from which they can be extracted. These materials have potential applications in a wide array of areas because of their unique properties such as ultra-high aspect ratios and specific strengths. However, the high energy required to extract CNFs from biomass through fibrillation often makes them prohibitively expensive or negates their inherent sustainability. As such, a variety of biomass treatments prior to fibrillation have been investigated by researchers to reduce the energy requirements of CNF extraction, improve the efficacy of biomass fibrillation and subsequent processes, and/or impart functionality in resulting nanofibrils. In this review, both widely used and emerging mechanical, chemical, and enzymatic pretreatments used prior to fibrillation of lignocellulosic biomass for CNF extraction are reviewed. Attention is given to the effect of these various pretreatments on the properties of the resulting CNFs. Finally, the energy consumption in fibrillation processes with and without the use of pretreatments is compared, and future perspectives on challenges and opportunities in lignocellulosic feedstock pretreatments are discussed.