Bonham Carter began her film career playing the title character in Lady Jane (1986), and playing Lucy Honeychurch in A Room with a View (1985).
Her other film roles include Ophelia in Hamlet (1990), Where Angels Fear to Tread (1991), Howards End (1992), Elizabeth Lavenza in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994), Woody Allen's Mighty Aphrodite (1995), Marla Singer in Fight Club (1999), Bellatrix Lestrange in the Harry Potter series (2007–11), Skynet in Terminator Salvation (2009), Miss Havisham in Great Expectations (2012), Madame Thénardier in Les Misérables (2012), and The Fairy Godmother in Cinderella (2015).
Throughout the series, references were made to Saffron's resemblance to Bonham Carter.
Her early films led to her being typecast as a "corset queen", and "English rose", playing pre- and early 20th century characters, particularly in Merchant-Ivory films.
While filming Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, she accidentally ruptured the eardrum of Matthew Lewis (playing Neville Longbottom) when she stuck her wand in his ear. Lovett, Sweeney Todd's (Johnny Depp) amorous accomplice in the film adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's Broadway musical, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, directed by Tim Burton.
Bonham Carter received a nomination for the Golden Globe for Best Actress for her performance.
She has frequently collaborated with director Tim Burton; in Planet of the Apes (2001), Big Fish (2003), Corpse Bride (2005), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007), Dark Shadows (2012), and playing the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland (2010) and its sequel Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016).
He suffered complications during an operation to remove the tumour which led to a stroke that left him half-paralysed and using a wheelchair.
Her breakthrough role was Lucy Honeychurch in A Room with a View (1985), which was filmed after Lady Jane but released two months earlier.
Bonham Carter also appeared in episodes of Miami Vice as Don Johnson's love interest during the 1986–87 season and then, in 1987 opposite Dirk Bogarde in The Vision, Stewart Granger in A Hazard of Hearts and John Gielgud in Getting It Right.
Her paternal grandmother was politician and feminist icon Violet Asquith, daughter of H. Asquith, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during the first half of World War I.
Bonham Carter is the youngest of three children, with two brothers, Edward and Thomas.
She also had a part in a minor TV film, A Pattern of Roses.