Born in Lund in 1929, Von Sydow started acting in his early twenties and was mentored by noted Swedish director Ingmar Bergman. Von Sydow achieved his breakout role when he starred in Bergman's 1957 film The Seventh Seal as Antonius Block, a knight who spends much of the film playing a chess match against the personification of Death. He is also well known for starring as Jesus in The Greatest Story Ever Told and playing Ernst Stavro Blofeld in the "unofficial" James Bond film Never Say Never Again. He has appeared in over 100 films throughout his career, in at least eight different languages. Like many members of The Tudors' cast (including Natalie Dormer) Von Sydow had a role in the HBO series Game of Thrones, playing a spirit known as "the Three-eyed Raven"; although the role only lasted one season, Von Sydow was nominated for an Emmy.
In 2002, Von Sydow renounced his Swedish citizenship and became a citizen of France. He is currently married to French filmmaker Catherine Brelet. He has two sons from his previous marriage.