Proyas was born in Alexandria, Egypt, to Egyptiotes (Greeks from Egypt) parents, and moved to Sydney when he was 3. At 17 he attended the Australian Film, Television, and Radio School, and began directing music videos shortly after. He moved to Los Angeles in the United States to further his career, working on MTV music videos and TV commercials.
Proyas' first feature film was the independent science fiction thriller Spirits of the Air, Gremlins of the Clouds, which was nominated for two Australian Film Institute awards in 1988, for costume design and production design and which won a Special Prize at the 1990 Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival. Next, Proyas directed the 1994 superhero fantasy thriller The Crow starring Brandon Lee. Lee was killed in an accident during filming, only eight days before the completion of the film on 31 March 1993. After Lee's death, Proyas and his producers decided to complete the film, partially rewriting the script and using a stunt double and special effects to film the remaining scenes. The Crow was released in May 1994 and was a box office and critical success.
Proyas then wrote, directed and produced the 1998 science fiction thriller Dark City, which had disappointing box office results despite very positive critical reception and winning several awards. In 2004, he directed I, Robot, a science fiction film suggested by the Isaac Asimov short story compilation I, Robot.
Proyas' film, the thriller Knowing, began production in Melbourne in March 2008 and opened in North America in March 2009.
His next project was meant to be an action-oriented adaptation of John Milton's 17th-century Christian epic poem Paradise Lost, starring Bradley Cooper. Both Proyas and Cooper were on hand to debut concept art at ComicCon 2011, but the project was ultimately cancelled over budgetary concerns related to the effects.
Proyas also worked with John Foxx on the creation of Parallel Lives, a joint project.
In late 2012, it was revealed that Proyas was slated as director of the science fiction thriller film adaptation of the Daniel H. Wilson novel Amped.
Proyas directed Gods of Egypt, starring Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, and co-written by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless. The film was critically panned upon its release.
At the 1994 Cannes Film Festival, Proyas was nominated for a Golden Palm award for his short film, Book of Dreams: 'Welcome to Crateland'. For Dark City, he was nominated for several awards and won the Silver Scream Award at the Amsterdam Fantastic Film Festival, the Bram Stoker Award, the Film Critics Circle of Australia Award and the Pegasus Audience Award at the Brussels International Festival of Fantasy Film.Neon (1980)
Strange Residues (1981)
Book of Dreams: Welcome to Crateland (1994, short)
"Ricky's Hand" - Fad Gadget (1980) w/Salik Silverstein
"Flicker" – Fetus Productions (1983)
"In Your Eyes" – Dropbears (1985)
"Kiss the Dirt" – INXS (1986)
"Magic Touch" – Mike Oldfield
"Don't Dream It's Over" – Crowded House (1986)
"Holiday" – The Other Ones (1987)
"Rhythm of Love" – Yes (1987)
"Better Be Home Soon" – Crowded House (1988)
"Bring Down the Moon" – Boy Meets Girl (1989)
"Mysteries of Love (Songlines)" – Alphaville (1989)
"When We Dance" – Sting (1994)