Crystal plasticity involves the motion of dislocations under stress. So far, atomistic simulations of this process have predicted Peierls stresses1, the stress needed to overcome the crystal resistance in the absence of thermal fluctuations, of more than twice the experimental values, a discrepancy best-known in body-centred cubic crystals2, 3, 4. Here we show that a large contribution arises from the crystal zero-point vibrations, which ease dislocation motion below typically half the Debye temperature. Using Wigner’s quantum transition state theory5, 6 in atomistic models of crystals, we found a large decrease of the kink-pair formation enthalpy due to the quantization of the crystal vibrational modes. Consequently, the flow stress predicted by Orowan’s law7 is strongly reduced when compared with its classical approximation and in much closer agreement with experiments. This work advocates that quantum mechanics should be accounted for in simulations of materials and not only at very low temperatures or in light-atom systems.