Optical manipulation of biological cells and nanoparticles is significantly important in life sciences, early disease diagnosis, and nanomanufacturing. However, low-power and versatile all-optical manipulation has remained elusive. Herein, we have achieved light-directed versatile thermophoretic manipulation of biological cells at an optical power 100–1000 times lower than that of optical tweezers. By harnessing the permittivity gradient in the electric double layer of the charged surface of the cell membrane, we succeed at the low-power trapping of suspended biological cells within a light-controlled temperature gradient field. Furthermore, through dynamic control of optothermal potentials using a digital micromirror device, we have achieved arbitrary spatial arrangements of cells at a resolution of ∼100 nm and precise rotation of both single and assemblies of cells. Our thermophoretic tweezers will find applications in cellular biology, nanomedicine, and tissue engineering.