Himself a published poet, film director and screenwriter, he began his film career in 1961 as an assistant to director Pier Paolo Pasolini.
Before the Revolution (1964), his first feature-length film, dates to the following year and scored a modest success.
After directing several documentaries, Bertolucci returned to features with two tales of Italian fascism, The Spider’s Stratagem and The Conformist, both shot in 1970.
It was Last Tango in Paris (1972), alternately praised and damned for its open and violent portrayal of sexuality, that brought him international fame, with the story of an affair between a middle-aged American and a young Frenchwoman featuring a riveting performance by Marlon Brando.
The life of Chinese emperor Pu Yi, examined in The Last Emperor (1987), won Bertolucci the Academy Awards for directing and screenwriting as well as seven additional Oscars.
His other films include 1900 (1977), Little Buddha (1994), Stealing Beauty (1996), Besieged (1999), and The Dreamers (2003).
In 2007 received the Leone d’Oro for his career at the Mostra del Cinema di Venezia.