Underlying the plasma membrane of eukaryotic cells is an actin cortex that includes actin filaments and associated proteins. A special feature of all polarized and epithelial cells are cortical domains, each of which is characterized by specific sets of proteins. Typically, an epithelial cell contains apical, subapical, lateral and basal domains. The domain-specific protein sets contain evolutionarily conserved proteins, as well as cell-type-specific factors. Among the conserved proteins are, the Par proteins, Crumbs complex and the lateral proteins Scribbled and Discs large 1. Organization of the plasma membrane into cortical domains is dynamic and depends on cell type, differentiation and developmental stage. The dynamics of cortical organization is strikingly visible in early Drosophila embryos, which increase the number of distinct cortical domains from one, during the pre-blastoderm stage, to two in syncytial blastoderm embryos, before finally acquiring the four domains that are typical for epithelial cells during cellularization. In this Review, we will describe the dynamics of cortical organization in early Drosophila embryos and discuss the processes and mechanisms underlying cortical remodeling.