Born in London, England, Amanpour was raised in Tehran. Her father, Mahmoud Amanpour, is a Muslim from Iran; her mother, Patricia Hill, is a Christian from England. She is fluent in English and Farsi.
After completing the larger part of her elementary education in Iran, she was sent by her parents to boarding school in England when she was 11. She attended Holy Cross Convent, an all-girls school located in Chalfont St. Peter, Buckinghamshire, and then, at age 16, New Hall School, in Chelmsford, Essex. Christiane and her family returned to England not long after the Islamic Revolution began. She has stressed that they were not forced to leave the country, but were actually returning to England due to the Iran–Iraq War. The family ultimately remained in England, finding it difficult to return to Iran.
After leaving New Hall, Amanpour moved to the United States to study journalism at the University of Rhode Island's Harrington School of Communication and Media. During her time there, she worked in the news department at WBRU in Providence, Rhode Island. She also worked for NBC affiliate WJAR in Providence, Rhode Island, as an electronic graphics designer. In 1983, Amanpour graduated from the university summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa with a B.A. degree in journalism.
In 1983, she was hired by CNN on the foreign desk in Atlanta, Georgia, as an entry-level desk assistant. During her early years as a correspondent, Amanpour was given her first major assignment covering the Iran–Iraq War, which led to her being transferred in 1986 to Eastern Europe to report on the fall of European communism. In 1989, she was assigned to work in Frankfurt, Germany, where she reported on the democratic revolutions sweeping Eastern Europe at the time. Through this position, she was able to move up in the company and by 1990 served as a correspondent for CNN's New York bureau.
Following Iraq's occupation of Kuwait in 1990, Amanpour's reports of the Persian Gulf War brought her wide notice while also taking CNN to a new level of news coverage. Thereafter, she reported from the Bosnian war and other conflict zones. Because of her emotional delivery from Sarajevo during the Siege of Sarajevo, viewers and critics questioned her professional objectivity, claiming that many of her reports were unjustified and favoured the Bosnian Muslims, to which she replied, "There are some situations one simply cannot be neutral about, because when you are neutral you are an accomplice. Objectivity doesn't mean treating all sides equally. It means giving each side a hearing." Amanpour gained a reputation for being fearless during the Gulf and Bosnian wars and for reporting from conflict areas.
From 1992 to 2010, Amanpour was CNN's chief international correspondent as well as the anchor of Amanpour, a daily CNN interview program that aired 2009–2010. Amanpour has reported on major crises from many of the world's hotspots, including Iraq, Afghanistan, the Palestinian territories, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, Somalia, Rwanda, and the Balkans and from the United States during Hurricane Katrina. She has secured exclusive interviews with world leaders from the Middle East to Europe to Africa and beyond, including Iranian presidents Mohammad Khatami and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as well as the presidents of Afghanistan, Sudan, and Syria, among others. After 9/11, she was the first international correspondent to interview British Prime Minister Tony Blair, French President Jacques Chirac, and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. Additional interview partners are Hillary Clinton, Nicolás Maduro, Hassan Rouhani and Moammar Gadhafi.
She also conducted interviews with Constantine II of Greece, Reza Pahlavi, Ameera al-Taweel and actress Angelina Jolie.
From 1996 to 2005, she was contracted by 60 Minutes creator Don Hewitt to file four to five in-depth international news reports a year as a special contributor. These reports garnered her a Peabody Award in 1998 (she had earlier been awarded one in 1993). Hewitt's successor Jeff Fager was not a fan of her work and terminated her contract.
She has had many memorable moments in her television career, one of them in a live telephone interview with Yasser Arafat during the siege on his compound in March 2002, in which Arafat gave tough responses: "Are you asking me why am I under complete siege? You're a wonderful journalist. You have to respect your profession." and "You have to be accurately when you are speaking with General Yasser Arafat. Be quiet!", and finished by hanging up on her.
On 22 December 1992, during the Bosnian War, Amanpour was reporting from Kiseljak, not far from Sarajevo. Kiseljak was in Croat hands, undamaged, and ostensibly well supplied with necessities. Amanpour reported that, "While people in Sarajevo are dying from starvation, the Serbs are living [in Kiseljak] in plenty", a report that was subsequently criticised by some analysts as spreading "misinformation" and "beautiful lies".
On 9 October 1994, Stephen Kinzer of The New York Times criticised Amanpour's coverage, in general, of the Bosnian War. Kinzer quoted a colleague's description of Amanpour as she reported on a terrorist bombing in the Markale marketplace of the Bosnian city of Sarajevo:
[Christiane Amanpour] was sitting in Belgrade when that marketplace massacre happened, and she went on the air to say that the Serbs had probably done it. There was no way she could have known that. She was assuming an omniscience which no journalist has.
In January 2004, prosecutors in the trial against Stanislav Galić, a Serb general in the siege of Sarajevo, introduced into evidence a report including the testimony of ammunition expert Berko Zečević. Working with two colleagues, Zečević's investigation revealed a total of six possible locations from which the shell in the first Markale massacre could have been fired, of which five were under VRS and one under ARBiH control. The ARBiH site in question was visible to UNPROFOR observers at the time, who reported that no shell was fired from that position. Zečević further reported that certain components of the projectile could only have been produced in one of two places, both of which were under the control of the Army of Republika Srpska. The court would eventually find Galić guilty of all the five shellings prosecutors had charged him with, including Markale's.
Amanpour has responded to the criticism levelled on her reporting from the war in the former Yugoslavia for "lack of neutrality", stating:
Some people accused me of being pro-Muslim in Bosnia, but I realised that our job is to give all sides an equal hearing, but in cases of genocide you can't just be neutral. You can't just say, "Well, this little boy was shot in the head and killed in besieged Sarajevo and that guy over there did it, but maybe he was upset because he had an argument with his wife." No, there is no equality there, and we had to tell the truth.
On 18 March 2010, Amanpour announced she would leave CNN for ABC News, where she would anchor This Week. She said, "I'm thrilled to be joining the incredible team at ABC News. Being asked to anchor This Week in the superb tradition started by David Brinkley is a tremendous and rare honor, and I look forward to discussing the great domestic and international issues of the day. I leave CNN with the utmost respect, love, and admiration for the company and everyone who works here. This has been my family and shared endeavor for the past 27 years, and I am forever grateful and proud of all that we have accomplished." She hosted her first broadcast on 1 August 2010.
During her first two months as host, the ratings for This Week reached their lowest point since 2003. On 28 February 2011, she interviewed Muammar Gaddafi and his sons Saif al-Islam and Al-Saadi Gaddafi.
On 13 December 2011, ABC announced Amanpour would be leaving her post as anchor of ABC News' This Week on 8 January 2012, and returning to CNN International, where she had previously worked for 27 years, and maintaining a reporting role at ABC News.
A day later on 14 December 2011, in statements by ABC and CNN, it was announced that, in a "unique arrangement", Amanpour would begin hosting a program on CNN International in 2012, while continuing at ABC News as a global affairs anchor.
It was later revealed that in the spring of 2012, CNN International would refresh its line-up, putting the interview show Amanpour back on air. On-air promotions said she would return to CNN International on 16 April. Her 30-minute New York-recorded show—to be screened twice an evening—would mean that the US parent network's Piers Morgan Tonight interview show would be "bumped" out of its 9:00 p.m. (Central European Time) slot to midnight (CET).
On 9 September 2013, the show and staff were moved to the CNN International office and is now currently being produced and broadcast from London.
On January 7, 2015, Amanpour made headlines during a "Breaking News" segment on CNN by referring to the Islamic extremists who murdered the 12 journalists at Charlie Hebdo as "activists": "On this day, these activists found their targets, and their targets were journalists. This was a clear attack on the freedom of expression, on the press, and on satire".
In late 2013, Amanpour raised the argument for intervention in Syria against the Assad government, which has been fighting Syrian opposition forces. She has appeared on several news programs in UK and criticized the Obama administration for its non-interventionist approach to Syria. Her advocacy for intervention was criticized by Michael S. Lofgren in The Huffington Post.
Amanpour is a member of the board of directors of the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Center for Public Integrity, the International Women's Media Foundation, and the Institute for War and Peace Reporting. She is also a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire Since April 2015 she has served as a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for freedom of expression and journalist safety.
Amanpour is married to American James Rubin, a former US Assistant Secretary of State and spokesman for the US State Department during the Clinton administration and an informal adviser to former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and to President Barack Obama. Their son, Darius John Rubin, was born in 2000. Having previously lived in London, they moved back to New York City in 2010, where they rented an apartment in Manhattan's Upper West Side. But in May 2013, Rubin announced that the family would return to London to work on several projects, and in October of the same year, Amanpour stated that she and her husband would be relocating to London permanently: "Right now I'd have to say that London is my home... My family are in England, and my husband and I are loving reacquainting ourselves with all the friends we left behind".
Amanpour shared a house on the East Side of Providence with John F. Kennedy, Jr. and some of his friends while he was attending Brown University and she was attending the University of Rhode Island.
Amanpour is the niece (by marriage) of General Nader Jahanbani, who commanded the Imperial Iranian Air Force for nearly 20 years until he was executed by Islamic Revolutionaries in 1979, and of his younger brother Khosrow, who was married to Princess Shahnaz Pahlavi. Amanpour's uncle, Captain Nasrollah Amanpour, was married to the younger sister of Khosrow and Nader.
Amanpour appeared in Gilmore Girls as herself in the show's series finale, "Bon Voyage". Throughout the series, Amanpour was an inspiration to one of the main characters, aspiring journalist Rory Gilmore. In July 2009 she appeared in a Harper's Bazaar magazine article entitled "Christiane Amanpour Gets a High-Fashion Makeover".
Amanpour played herself in newscasts in the films Iron Man 2 and Pink Panther 2. In Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, she voiced Enheduanna in the episode "The Immortals".
In 2014, Amanpour narrated "Women in War", an episode of season 2 of Makers: Women Who Make America.
In 2016 Amanpour was a castaway on the BBC Programme Desert Island Discs. As her luxury item she chose a guitar previously owned by Bruce Springsteen.1992: Livingston Award for Young Journalists
1993: George Polk Award for Television Reporting
1993: George Foster Peabody Personal Award
1994: Woman of the Year, New York Chapter of "Women in Cable"
1994: Courage in Journalism Award, International Women's Media Foundation
1996: George Polk Award for Television Reporting
1997: Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree, Emory University
1997: Nymphe d'Honneur at the Monte Carlo Television Festival
1998: George Foster Peabody Personal Award for International Reporting
2002: Edward R. Murrow Award for Distinguished Achievement in Broadcast Journalism
2002: Goldsmith Career Award for Excellence in Journalism, at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government
2005: International Emmy, International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences
2006: Honorary citizen, city of Sarajevo
2006: Honorary doctorate degree from the University of Michigan for her contributions to journalism
2007: Paul White Award, Radio Television Digital News Association
2007: CBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours
2007: Persian Woman of the Year
2008: The Fourth Estate Award (National Press Club)
2008: Celebrating Women Award from The New York Women's Foundation
2010: Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
2010: Honorary doctorate of humane letters degree, Northwestern University
2010: Honorary doctorate from Georgia State University for her contributions to journalism
2010: Honorary member of the graduating class of 2010 of Harvard College
2011: Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism from Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication
2012: Honorary doctorate of humane letters, Amherst College
2012: Honorary doctorate of humane letters, University of Southern California
Director on the board of the Committee to Protect Journalists
Fellow, Society of Professional Journalists
Eleven Emmy news/documentary awards
Major role in two DuPont awards given to CNN
Major role in a Golden CableACE award given to CNN
Honorary board member of the Daniel Pearl Foundation
Sigma Delta Chi Award (SDX) for her reports from Goma, Zaire
Forbes named her one of "The World's 100 Most Powerful Women"
POP Award, by "Cable Positive"