As an actor whilst he was a child Dutt appeared in the 1971 film Reshma Aur Shera, starring his father. He appears briefly as a qawali singer in his first film appearance. Dutt made his Bollywood movie debut with Rocky in 1981. He went on to act in many 1980's films including Vidhata, Jeeva, Naam and Taaqatwar.
In the 1990s Dutt acted in films such as Sadak and Khoon Ka Karz. He starred in the 1991 movie Saajan for which he was nominated for the Filmfare Best Actor Award. In 1993 he starred in the movie Khal Nayak for which he earned his second Filmfare Best Actor Award nomination. In 1999's Vaastav: The Reality, he finally won his first Filmfare Best Actor Award.
In the 2000s Dutt acted in many films such as Mission Kashmir, Jodi No.1, Hathyar, Kaante, Munna Bhai M.B.B.S, Dus, Lage Raho Munna Bhai, Shootout at Lokhandwala, Dhamaal, Blue (2009), All The Best: Fun Begins and Knockout (2010). During this time he got several more nominations and awards. Now he is all set to make his debut as a producer with the film Rascals, and Khotey Sikkey under the banner of Sanjay Dutt Productions Pvt Ltd.