Kapoor made his Bollywood debut with Umesh Mehra’s Hamare Tumhare (1979) in a supporting role. After a few minor roles in films such as Hum Paanch (1980) and Shakti (1982), he got his first leading role in the 1983 Hindi film, Woh Saat Din. Kapoor later tried acting in Tollywood and Sandalwood, and appeared in the Telugu film Vamsa Vriksham and Mani Ratnam’s Kannada debut film Pallavi Anu Pallavi released in 1983.
Next, he appeared in Yash Chopra’s drama Mashaal (1984) as Tapori , for which he won his first Filmfare Award in the Best Supporting Actor category. Kapoor’s 1985 releases included Yudh & Saaheb.
In 1986, Kapoor played the role of a care free playboy in the hit Janbaaz, costarring Feroz Khan. His other release of 1986 Insaaf Ki Awaaz was a box office hit. In the same year Basu Chatterjee directed Chameli Ki Shaadi and he displayed his crackling flare in comedy.
Going on to deliver huge commercial success with films like Meri Jung (1985), a career-defining role of an angry young lawyer fighting for justice, which eventually established Kapoor’s credential as a mature actor and both audience and critics gave their thumbs up to his performance. Kapoor played a comic tapori in Karma (1986), the biggest hit of the year. Kapoor generated wide applause from audience of all walks of life for his title role in Shekhar Kapur’s sci-fi film Mr. India (1987), the biggest hit of the year. The film became one of his biggest box office hits and shot him to superstar status. Anil kapoor was equally impressive in Mahesh Bhatt directed film Thikana. In 1988, he was rewarded with his first Filmfare Best Actor Award for his rivetting performance in the hit film, Tezaab, the biggest blockbuster of 1988. Anil proved to be the only saving grace even in flops like Ram-Avtar. The following year he delivered more mega commercial and critical successes with Ram Lakhan (which became the second highest box office earner of 1989) and the audience went berserk with the song One Two Ka Four. In the highly acclaimed film Parinda, Kapoor played his role with conviction, and his biggest achievement was displaying the vulnerability of his character so perfectly.In Rakhwala, Kapoor played a tapori again and the film was declared a success. Kapoor excelled brilliantly in his eccentric portrayal of an autistic person in the 1989 hit, Eeshwar and this film proved his versatility as an actor.
The year 1990 saw him play a dual role, as twin brothers in the highly successful Kishen Kanhaiya and in the same year he further attained reasonable box office success with Ghar Ho To Aisa. Kapoor came up with a critically acclaimed performance in Awaargi. Many critics called that his best performance ever.This was followed by a restrained yet striking performance as a middle age man in Yash Chopra’s romantic drama Lamhe, a landmark film of Indian cinema and Yash Chopra’s best work to date. It was the first film in which he appeared without a moustache. Although the film was a box office failure in India, it proved to be a success overseas. Kapoor’s 1991 release, Benaam Badshaah was accorded above average status at the ticket window.
In 1992, Kapoor received his second Filmfare Best Actor Award for his hard-hitting performance in Indra Kumar’s Beta — the biggest blockbuster of the year — opposite Madhuri Dixit. Kapoor was highly impressive with his comic act in Khel and his comic timing was one of the highlights of the film. In 1993, Boney Kapoor’s much delayed mega-budget, Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja was a disaster at the box office and damaged Kapoor’s reputation as the industry’s biggest star at the time. The only major success in these years was Laadla with Sridevi, a film produced by Nitin Manmohan. Kapoor gave a splendid performance as a simpleton lover in the hit musical 1942: A Love Story. His 1995 release, Trimurti (film) was a box office disaster, though Kapoor’s performance was creditable. Kapoor came up with a decent performance in the average performer Gharwali Bharwali.
After a few box office failures, he had box office success with films like Loafer (1996), In Judaai, Kapoor’s depiction of a loving husband twisted between his two wives was appreciated and this film fared well at the box office. Deewana Mastana (1997), Biwi No.1 (1999) and Hum Aapke Dil Mein Rehte Hain (1999) were box office hits. Kapoor’s unusual characterization of a zealous, crooked musical superstar in Taal (1999) shocked both audience and critics alike. He also won rave reviews for his superb performance in Virasat, a remake of the Tamil film, Thevar Magan (1992), in which Kamal Hassan had played Kapoor’s role. He also starred in the unsuccessful Jhooth Bole Kauwa Kaate, which was legendary filmmaker Hrishikesh Mukherji’s last commercial release, along with Juhi Chawla. He shaved his moustache once again for the film, in the second half, where he played actor Sajid Khan’s wife and his delightful comic timing was a real treat to watch.
Kapoor’s first release of 2000 was Bulandi (2000 film), in which he played a double role, showing restraint and maturity as the elder Thakur. He won his first National Film Award in the Best Actor category for his role in Rajkumar Santoshi’s critically acclaimed Pukar in 2000. Kapoor again tasted critical and commercial success with Hamara Dil Aapke Paas Hai in 2000. Kapoor stole the show as Rajeev in the much delayed, Karobaar, a film directed by Rakesh Roshan, where Kapoor’s dialogue delivery was appreciated. He delivered a powerhouse performance in Shanker’s Nayak which is considered to be his best performance by many.
In 2002, Kapoor gave an excellent performance in the role of a fat man in Badhaai Ho Badhaai, a takeoff from the Hollywood hit, Nutty Professor. He notched up yet another glorious performance in the Indra Kumar directed film Rishtey. In Om Jai Jagadish, he gave an amazing performance. Kapoor shared the screen with Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan for the first time in Armaan, and underplayed his character of a neurosurgeon superbly.
In his 2003 release, Calcutta Mail, he delivered one of his best performances. His character was defined with ample scope to perform in this screenplay-driven performance and in spite of the strong supporting cast, this really came out as Kapoor’s one-man show. He ignited the silver screen with an authoritative performance in Musafir. Kapoor gave an incredibly restrained performance as the stricken husband in the thriller My Wife’s Murder, which he also produced.] Anees Bazmee’s super-hit comedy No Entry (2005), followed for Kapoor that year. The film went on to become the highest grossing film of the year.
Kapoor played a grey character with finesse in the 2005 thriller, Chocolate. Anil’s first release of 2007 Salaam-e-Ishq: A Tribute to Love was a box office hit in overseas though a flop in India. Anees Bazmee’s Welcome, which released on 21 December 2007 and was declared the biggest success of the year. Kapoor’s understated performance in Subhash Ghai’s Black and White was highly lauded. His first release in 2008, Abbas Mustan’s thriller, Race became a box office hit. Vijay Krishna Acharya’s, Tashan marked Anil’s comeback to Yash Raj Films but failed to do well at the box office.
His most recent films were his first English-language film, Slumdog Millionaire, which was released on 12 November 2008, and Yuvvraaj, which was released on 21 November 2008. Yuvvraaj, with Salman Khan and Katrina Kaif in the lead roles, failed to do well at the box office. On the other hand, Slumdog Millionaire has won a number of international awards and received rave reviews from critics across the globe, costing only US $15 million to produce, but pulling in more than $352 million worldwide. In January 2009, he attended the 66th Golden Globe Awards ceremony along with the team of Slumdog Millionaire, which won four Golden Globe Awards. Kapoor also received a nomination for Best Ensemble at the Black Reel Awards of 2008 and has won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.
In 2010, Kapoor starred in the eighth season of the American television series 24, portraying Omar Hassan, President of the fictional Islamic Republic of Kamistan. In October of that year he was cast to play a villain in both Mission: Impossible IV and Power.