Driver gained worldwide attention and acclaim for playing the villain Kylo Ren in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), a role which he is set to reprise in future Star Wars films.
He is also the founder of Arts in the Armed Forces (AITAF), a nonprofit that performs theater for all branches of the military, both in the US and abroad.
Driver was born in Fontana, San Bernardino County, California, on November 19, 1983, the son of Nancy (née Needham) Wright, a paralegal, and Joe Douglas Driver. His father's family is from Arkansas and his mother's family is from Indiana. His stepfather, Rodney G. Wright, is a minister at a Baptist church.
When Driver was seven years old, he moved with his mother and older sister to her hometown of Mishawaka, Indiana, where he grew up and attended high school at Mishawaka High School. Driver had a religious upbringing, and sang in choir at church. As a teenager, Driver described himself as a "misfit", telling M Magazine that he climbed radio towers, set objects on fire, and also co-founded a fight club with his friends after being inspired by the movie of the same name.
Shortly after the September 11 attacks, Driver joined the United States Marine Corps and was assigned to Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines as an 81mm mortar man. He served for two years and eight months with no deployments before breaking his sternum while mountain biking. He was medically discharged before his unit deployed to Iraq for the Iraq War.
After leaving the Marine Corps, Driver attended the University of Indianapolis for a year; he transferred to the Juilliard School to study drama. Driver said that he was seen as an intimidating and volatile figure by his classmates, and struggled to fit into a lifestyle so different from the Marines. He was a member of the Drama Division's Group 38 (2005–2009), along with his future wife Joanne Tucker. He graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 2009.
Following his graduation from Juilliard, Driver began acting in New York City, appearing in both Broadway and off-Broadway productions. Like many other aspiring actors, he occasionally worked as a busboy and waiter. Driver appeared in several television shows and short films. He made his feature film debut in Clint Eastwood's J. Edgar (2011).
In 2012, Driver was cast in the HBO hit comedy-drama series Girls, as the lead character's emotionally unstable boyfriend Adam Sackler. To date, he has received three nominations for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for his role. Apart from appearing in the short film Not Waving But Drowning and the film Gayby, Driver had key roles in two critically acclaimed films of 2012. He played Samuel Beckwith in Steven Spielberg's Lincoln and played Lev Shapiro in Noah Baumbach's Frances Ha.
Driver appeared in four films in 2013: Bluebird, The F Word, as musician Al Cody in the Coen Brothers' Inside Llewyn Davis, and as photographer Rick Smolan in Tracks.
In 2014, he played despairing father Jude in the Italian film Hungry Hearts, Philip Altman in This Is Where I Leave You, and aspiring filmmaker Jaime in While We're Young, starring Naomi Watts and Ben Stiller. For his role in Hungry Hearts, Driver won the Volpi Cup for Best Actor at the 71st Venice International Film Festival.
In late February 2014, Variety reported that Driver would play villain Kylo Ren in the 2015 film Star Wars: The Force Awakens. On April 29, 2014, he was confirmed as a cast member. The Force Awakens was released on December 18, 2015. Both the film and Driver's performance were well received by critics and audiences alike. Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian highlighted Driver's performance in his review of the film calling him "gorgeously cruel, spiteful and capricious...very suited to Kylo Ren's fastidious and amused contempt for his enemies’ weakness and compassion." Driver hosted the January 16, 2016 episode of Saturday Night Live.
In 2016, Driver was featured in the short play The Strangest Kind of Romance by Tennessee Williams, for Playing On Air, a non-profit organization that “records short plays [for public radio and podcast] written by top playwrights and performed by outstanding actors.”
Driver co-starred in the Jeff Nichols-directed film Midnight Special, which was released on March 18, 2016. He also appeared in Martin Scorsese's 2016 film Silence. Jim Jarmusch's Paterson was Driver's final film release in 2016. The film had its world premiere at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, and was released later on December 28, 2016 in the United States. His performance received positive reviews with Time's Stephanie Zacharek writing "Driver is turning out to be one of the finest actors of the moment, an understated star with a great, non-movie-star face". He stars as Clyde in Stephen Soderbergh's Logan Lucky, which premiered in August 2017, alongside Channing Tatum and Daniel Craig.
Driver will reprise his role as Kylo Ren in the upcoming Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which is scheduled for release in December 2017. At the Cannes Film Festival in 2016, it was announced that he was set to star in Terry Gilliam's The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. He is also attached to star in Sylvester Stallone's Tough As They Come, as well as Leos Carax's upcoming music drama titled Annette.
Driver married Joanne Tucker in June 2013. The couple have a child born in early 2017 and live in Brooklyn with their pit-mix, Moose.