The plasma membrane tension strongly affects cell surface processes, such as migration, endocytosis and signalling. However, it is not known whether the membrane tension of organelles regulates their functions, notably intracellular traffic. The endosomal sorting complexes required for transport (ESCRT)-III complex is the major membrane remodelling complex that drives intra-lumenal-vesicle (ILV) formation on endosomal membranes. Here we used a fluorescent membrane-tension probe to show that ESCRT-III subunits are recruited onto endosomal membranes when the membrane tension is reduced. We find that tension-dependent recruitment is associated with ESCRT-III polymerization and membrane deformation in vitro and correlates with increased ILV formation in ESCRT-III-decorated endosomes in vivo. Finally, we find that the endosomal membrane tension decreases when ILV formation is triggered by EGF under physiological conditions. These results indicate that membrane tension is a major regulator of ILV formation and endosome trafficking, leading us to conclude that membrane tension can control organelle functions.