Vinod Khanna was born in Peshawar, British India on 6th October 1946 in a business family which migrated from Punjab to Delhi, to settle down in Mumbai in 1947. He did his schooling in St. Xaviers High School Mumbai and Delhi Public School, New Delhi and finally passed his Senior Cambridge from the Lord Bames High School, Devlali with Honours. At the age of nineteen, while he was reading Commerce at Sydenham College in Mumbai, in his Junior year, his film career was launched with the film 'Man Ka Meet'. His parents were Kisnanchand and Kamla Khanna. He has two sons Akshaye Khanna and Rahul Khanna by his wife Gitanjali whom he divorced and married Kavita in the year 1990 having two daughters by her Sakshi and Shraddha.

Vinod Khanna debuted in Sunil Dutt's 1968 film Man Ka Meet as a villain. He acted in multi-starrer films often playing supporting and negative roles in hit films such as Purab Aur Paschim (1970), Sachaa Jhutha (1970) and Mera Gaon Mera Desh(1971). His big break was in the 1971 film Mere Apne directed by Gulzar. His sensitive performance as an army officer facing death row in another Gulzar scripted and directed 1973 film Achanak was critically acclaimed. The songless film echoed the true life story of K. M. Nanavati vs. State of Maharashtra and Khanna portrayed Kawas Nanavati, the real life Navy officer.

He went on to star in many hits throughout the mid 1970s and early 1980s, including Parvarish (1977), Amar Akbar Anthony (1977), Khoon Pasina (1977), Muqaddar Ka Sikander (1978), The Burning Train (1980) and Qurbani (1980). Having peaked in Bollywood, he became a follower of the spiritual teacher Osho (Rajneesh) and left the film industry in 1979 for eight years. At this time, he was the most successful actor in the Bollywood, competing with Amitabh Bachchan. He rejoined the industry, eight years later in mid 1980s. He continued to appear in many notable films from the mid 1980s to the 1990s such as Dayavan (1988), Chandni (1989), Kshatriya (1993) Eena Meena Deeka (1994) and Ekka Raja Rani (1994).

In 1997 he introduced his son Akshaye in the film Himalay Putra which he produced and also starred in. In 1999 he received a Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to the film industry for over three decades. He has since acted in fewer films playing character roles. His most recent films were Deewaanapan (2002) and Risk (2007).

In 1997, he joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and was nominated from Gurdaspur, East Punjab in the next year's Lok Sabha poll.

The star-factor helped him oust three time Lok Sabha member Sukhbans Kaur Bhinder. Bhinder's perceived inability to develop the area outweighed the "outsider" tag applied to Khanna. The latter became union minister for culture and tourism in July 2002. Six months later he was moved to the more important ministry of external affairs (MEA) as minister of state. In 2004 he won re-election from Gurdaspur.

He was the highest taxpayer in Mumbai in 1990-91. Presently, he continues to participate in the film business based out of Dubai. His sons Akshay Khanna and Rahul Khanna are Hindi film actors.

Currently Vinod Khanna is acting as the lead in the Hindi serial Mere Apne produced by Smriti Irani which airs on the new channel 9x. He plays the role of the male lead Kashi Nath and is paired with producer Smriti Irani who also acts as the female lead in the serial.