Bhansali began his career as an assistant to Vidhu Vinod Chopra and was involved in the making of Parinda, 1942: A Love Story and Kareeb. However, both had a fall out when Bhansali refused to direct Kareeb and made his directorial debut with Khamoshi: The Musical, the commercially unsuccessful but critically acclaimed narration of a daughter's struggle to communicate with her deaf mute parents.
His second film was a triangular love story, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, which established his individualistic stamp for visual splendour and creating auras of celebration and festivity. The film was a great success and won numerous awards.
His next film Devdas Starring Shahrukh Khan and Aishwarya Rai and Madhuri Dixit was Bhansali's ode to the well known novel of the same name. Upon its theatrical release in India, the film surfaced as the highest grossing movie.
It also won major Bollywood awards and was Indian submission for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. The musical received a significant reception at Cannes, where it premiered. Then came Black, which Time Magazine (Europe) selected as fifth of the 10 Best Movies of the Year 2005 from across the globe. Black broke a record at the 2006 Filmfare Awards, winning eleven awards. After having four successes, Bhansali experienced his first major flop in Saawariya, which was met with sharp criticisms and simultaneously poor collections at the box office.
In 2010, Bhansali released Guzaarish starring Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. He also made his debut in music direction for this film.
In 2012, Bhansali produced Rowdy Rathore a remake of the Telugu film Vikramarkudu, starring Akshay Kumar and Sonakshi Sinha; and directed by Prabhu Deva.
His future project is titled Chenab Gandhi directed by Vibhu Puri and written by Bhavani Iyer, who also wrote for Black; starring Amitabh Bachchan, Rajeev Khandelwal and Rani Mukherjee. The film centers around Indian freedom fighter, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, also known as Frontier Gandhi.
He has also remained a judge on music talent show X Factor season 1 and 2.
In 2013, Bhansali debuted in television with the show Saraswatichandra, which currently airs on Star Plus. This show started airing on the 25th February 2013, starring Gautam Rode and Jennifer Winget.