Khan first appeared on screen as a child actor in his uncle Nasir Hussain's filmYaadon Ki Baaraat (1973). His first feature film role came with the experimental film Holi (1984), and he began a full-time career in film with a leading role in the highly successful tragic romance Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (1988). His performance in the film and in the thriller Raakh (1989) earned him a Special Jury Award at the National Film Award ceremony. He established himself as a leading actor of Hindi cinema in the 1990s by appearing in several commercially successful films, including the romantic drama Dil (1990), the romance Raja Hindustani (1996), for which he won his first Filmfare Award for Best Actor, and the drama Sarfarosh (1999). He was also noted for playing against type in the critically acclaimed Canadian-Indian film Earth (1998).
In 2001, Khan started a production company, whose first release, Lagaan, was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and earned him a National Film Award for Best Popular Film and two more Filmfare Awards (Best Actor and Best Film). After a four-year absence from the screen, Khan continued to portray leading roles, most notably in the 2006 box-office hitsFanaa and Rang De Basanti. The following year, he made his directorial debut with Taare Zameen Par, a major success that garnered him the Filmfare Awards for Best Film and Best Director. Khan's greatest commercial successes came with the thriller Ghajini (2008), the dramedy 3 Idiots (2009), and the adventure film Dhoom 3 (2013), all of which held records for being the highest grossing Bollywood film of all-time.
In addition to acting, Khan is a humanitarian and has participated in and spoken out for various social causes, some of which have sparked political controversy. He has created, and featured as the host of the television talk show Satyamev Jayate through which he highlights sensitive social issues prevailing in India. Khan was married to his first wife, Reena Dutta, for fifteen years following which he married the film director Kiran Rao. He has three children—two with Dutta, and one with Rao through a surrogate.