DEAD box RNA helicases regulate diverse facets of RNA biology. Proteins of this family carry out essential cellular functions, and emerging literature is revealing additional roles in immune defense. Using RNA interference screening, we identified an evolutionarily conserved antiviral role for the helicase DDX56 against the alphavirus Sindbis virus (SINV), a mosquito-transmitted pathogen that infects humans. Depletion of DDX56 enhanced infection in Drosophila and human cells. Furthermore, we found that DDX56 also controls the emerging alphavirus chikungunya virus (CHIKV) through an interferon-independent mechanism. Using cross-linking immunoprecipitation (CLIP-Seq), we identified a predicted stem-loop on the viral genomic RNA bound by DDX56. Mechanistically, we found that DDX56 levels increase in the cytoplasm during CHIKV infection. In the cytoplasm, DDX56 impacts the earliest step in the viral replication cycle by binding and destabilizing the incoming viral genomic RNA, thereby attenuating infection. Thus, DDX56 is a conserved antiviral RNA binding protein that controls alphavirus infection.IMPORTANCE Arthropod-borne viruses are diverse pathogens and include the emerging virus chikungunya virus, which is associated with human disease. Through genetic screening, we found that the conserved RNA binding protein DDX56 is antiviral against chikungunya virus in insects and humans. DDX56 relocalizes from the nucleus to the cytoplasm, where it binds to a stem-loop in the viral genome and destabilizes incoming genomes. Thus, DDX56 is an evolutionarily conserved antiviral factor that controls alphavirus infection.