Some of her major films include Nishant, Junoon, Susman, Antarnaad, Shatranj Ke Khiladi, Khandhar, Genesis, Amar Akbar Anthony, Parvarish, Albert Pinto Ko Guussa Kyon Aata Hai, Ek Din Achanak Sparsh, Disha; Paar; Picnic, Sati, Arth and Godmother. She made her small screen debut with the serial Anupama.
She has also acted in a number of Hollywood movies which include John Schlesinger's Madame Sousatzka, Nicholas Klotz's Bengali Night, Roland Joffe's City of Joy, Channel 4's Immaculate Conception, Blake Edward's the Son of Pink Panther and Ismail Merchant's In Custody.
Shabana Azmi has been a very active social activist and has been a member of the Rajya Sabha. She has participated in several plays and demonstrations against communalism. In 1989, she undertook a four-day march for communal harmony from New Delhi to Meerut.