Stewart was born and raised in Los Angeles. Both of her parents work in the entertainment industry. Her father, John Stewart, is a stage manager and television producer who has worked for Fox and on the Comedy Central show @midnight. Her mother, Jules Mann-Stewart, is originally from Maroochydore, Queensland, Australia. She is a script supervisor and has also directed a film, the 2012 prison drama K-11. She has an older brother, Cameron B. Stewart, and two adopted brothers, Dana and Taylor.
Stewart attended local schools until the seventh grade. As she became more involved in acting, she continued her education by correspondence until completing high school.
As she grew up with a family who worked behind the camera, Stewart thought she would become a screenwriter/director, but never considered being an actor. She recalled, "I never wanted to be the center of attention — I wasn't that 'I want to be famous, I want to be an actor' kid. I never sought out acting, but I always practiced my autograph because I love pens. I'd write my name on everything."
She began acting at 8, after an agent saw her perform in her elementary school's Christmas play. After auditioning for a year, Stewart gained her first role with a small, nonspeaking part in the Disney Channel TV-movie The Thirteenth Year. Her next film was The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas, where she played the "ring toss girl". She also appeared in the independent film The Safety of Objects (2001), as the tomboy daughter of a troubled single mother (Patricia Clarkson). Stewart also played a tomboy, diabetic daughter of a divorced mother (Jodie Foster) in the film Panic Room (2002). She was nominated for a Young Artist Award for her performance.
After Panic Room's success, Stewart was cast in another thriller, Cold Creek Manor (2003), playing the daughter of characters played by Dennis Quaid and Sharon Stone. She was nominated again for a Young Artist Award for her performance. About this time in her career, she started homeschooling because of her irregular schedule.
Stewart's first starring role was at age 14 in the children's action-comedy Catch That Kid (2004), opposite Max Thieriot and Corbin Bleu. That year Stewart also played the role of Lila in the thriller, Undertow (2004). Stewart starred in the Lifetime/Showtime television film Speak (2004), based on the novel by the same name by Laurie Halse Anderson. Stewart, 13 at the time of filming, played a high school freshman, Melinda Sordino, who after being raped nearly stops speaking. Her performance was widely praised, with The New York Times stating "Ms. Stewart creates a convincing character full of pain and turmoil."
Stewart appeared in the fantasy-adventure film Zathura (2005), playing the role of Lisa, the irresponsible older sister of two little boys. During their playing a board game, they turn their house into a spacecraft hurtling uncontrollably in outer space. The film was praised by critics, but Stewart's performance did not garner much media attention. Her character is immobilized during most of the film. The next year, she played the character Maya in Fierce People (2006), directed by Griffin Dunne. After that film, she received the lead role of Jess Solomon in the supernatural thriller film The Messengers.
Stewart appeared as teenager Lucy Hardwicke in In the Land of Women (2007), a romantic drama starring Meg Ryan and Adam Brody. The film, as well as Stewart's performance, received mixed reviews. That same year, Stewart had a small role in the Sean Penn-directed adaptation Into the Wild. For her portrayal of Tracy – a teenage singer who has a crush on young adventurer Christopher McCandless (played by Emile Hirsch) – Stewart received mixed reviews. While Salon.com considered her work a "sturdy, sensitive performance", and the Chicago Tribune noted that she did "vividly well with a sketch of a role", Variety's critic Dennis Harvey said, "It's unclear whether Stewart means to be playing hippie-chick Tracy as vapid, or whether it just comes off that way." After Into the Wild, Stewart had a cameo appearance in Jumper and also appeared in What Just Happened, which was released in October 2008. She co-starred in The Cake Eaters, an independent film that has been screened only at film festivals. Both the film and Stewart's performance received many positive reviews. Critic Bill Goodykoontz from The Arizona Republic said that Stewart "really shines.... She excels at both aspects of the performance, giving Georgia a strength that defies any sort of pity one might feel for her, without letting us forget her vulnerability".
On November 16, 2007, Summit Entertainment announced that Stewart would play main character Isabella "Bella" Swan in the film Twilight, based on Stephenie Meyer's bestselling vampire romance novel of the same name. Stewart was on the set of Adventureland when director Catherine Hardwicke visited her for an informal screen test, which "captivated" the director. She starred alongside Robert Pattinson, who plays Edward Cullen, her vampire boyfriend. The film began production in February 2008 and finished filming in May 2008.
Twilight was released domestically on November 21, 2008. Stewart's performance garnered mixed reviews with some critics describing her as "the ideal casting choice" and praising her for conveying "Bella's detachment, as well as her need to bust through it;" others criticized her acting for being "wooden" and lacking variety in her facial expressions, which they described as "blank".
In 2008 she ranked #17 on Entertainment Weekly's "30 Under 30" the actress list, and she was also named the Movie Fanatic's Hottest Young Actress, ans she also was ranked #9 on Moviefone's "The 25 Hottest Actors Under 25". She has been nominated four times, three consecutive years (2003–2005) and in 2008 for the Young Artist Award.
She received praise for her role in Adventureland (2009), a comedy-drama film written and directed by Greg Mottola, and co-starring Jesse Eisenberg. Critic James Berardinelli of Reelviews said, "Stewart is more than merely appealing in this role – she makes Em a fully realized woman, and some of the most intricate development results from what the camera observes in Stewart's eyes." Los Angeles Times Kenneth Turan said Stewart was "beautiful, enigmatic and very experienced". and MSN Movies James Rocchi stated, "Stewart's vulnerable, spooky power is used to nice effect." Stewart reappeared as Bella in the sequel, The Twilight Saga: New Moon, once again receiving mixed reviews for her performance. Jordan Mintzer from Variety called Stewart "the heart and soul of the film" and praised her for giving "both weight and depth to dialogue...she makes Bella's psychological wounds seem like the real deal."
On the other hand, Manohla Dargis from The New York Times said Stewart's "lonely-girl blues soon grow wearisome," and Billy Goodykoontz from The Arizona Republic stated "Stewart is a huge disappointment... She sucks the energy right out of the film". She reprised this role in The Twilight Saga: Eclipse.
At the 2010 82nd Annual Academy Awards, Stewart and Twilight co-star Taylor Lautner presented a tribute in honor of the horror movie genre.
In 2009, Stewart starred in The Yellow Handkerchief, which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival and was released into theaters in 2010 by Samuel Goldwyn Films. She also starred alongside James Gandolfini in Welcome to the Rileys, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2010.
In 2010, Stewart portrayed rock star Joan Jett in The Runaways, a biographical film of the titular band of the same name from writer-director Floria Sigismondi. Stewart met with Jett over the 2008–2009 New Year to prepare for the role; she prerecorded songs in a studio for the film. She received praise for her performance: the Metro Times wrote, "It turns out that Stewart is actually really good at capturing Jett's icy, tough-but-cool girl swagger, adding the needed touches of vulnerability that transform it into a pretty terrific performance... Stewart is a genuine rock star here." Also, A. O. Scott of The New York Times noted "Ms. Stewart, watchful and unassuming, gives the movie its spine and soul." The same year, Stewart was listed as the highest-earning female actress in Vanity Fair's "2010's Top Hollywood Top Earners List", with an estimated earning of $28.5 million for her movie roles in 2010. She was awarded with Bafta Rising Star award at the 63rd British Academy Film Awards.
She was named "Stonette of the Year" by High Times magazine in 2010. And was ranked #3 in FHM Online "Sexiest Women in the World". And again ranked #13 in the 2011 FHM list of "Sexiest Women in the World". And again she was ranked #6 in the 2010 FHM list of "Sexiest Women in the World".
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 was released on November 18, 2011. Though the film received mixed to negative reviews, Stewart's performance was praised. Gabriel Chong called Stewart's performance "mesmerising" and said that she "makes [Bella's] every emotion keenly felt that runs the gamut from joy, trepidation, anxiety, distress and above all quiet and resolute determination." The Village Voice's Dan Konis said Stewart "beautifully underplays" the role. Some critics found Pattinson and Stewart's chemistry lacking and said that the relationship came off like a "charade" onscreen, or that none of the three leads was convincing in his or her role. She appeared in Marcus Foster' I was Broken Music Video.
She concluded the role in the finale, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2, in November 2012. The film, despite mixed critical reception, was a box office success, grossing nearly $830 million worldwide, becoming the 40th highest-grossing film, and the highest-grossing film of the Twilight series. At Rotten Tomatoes, the film currently holds a 48% rotten rating, based on 174 reviews with the consensus stating: "It is the most enjoyable chapter in The Twilight Saga, but that's not enough to make Breaking Dawn Part 2 worth watching for filmgoers who don't already count themselves among the franchise converts."
She was ranked #27 on Ask men's top 99 "most desirable" women of 2012 list.
On December 6, 2011, Stewart was named number one on Forbes magazine's list of "Hollywood's Best Actors for the Buck". On January 13, 2012, she became the face of a new unnamed Balenciaga perfume; in June, its name was promoted as "Florabotanica".
Stewart starred as Snow White in the film Snow White and the Huntsman (2012). Stewart appears as Mary Lou in "On the Road", the film adaptation of Jack Kerouac's cult classic novel of the same name.
According to Forbes, Stewart was the highest paid actress in 2012, with total earnings of $34.5 million. She earned $12.5 million each for last two installments in the Twilight series, including royalties. She ranked #7 on AskMen's list of Top 99 Women for 2013.
On February 24, 2013 she presented at the 85th Annual Academy Awards with actor Daniel Radcliffe. December 11, 2013, Chanel announced that Stewart was its "new face" for a Western-inspired fashion collection. The campaign has been shot by Karl Lagerfeld and was released online in May 2014. In 2014, Balenciaga released a new fragrance, Rosabotanica, with Stewart remaining the face of the brand. She was ranked #3 on Forbes magazine's highest paid actress in 2013 with a total earning of 22 million dollars, #10 in 2014 with 12 million dollars, and #9 in 2015 with 12 million dollars.
Camp X-Ray, her first film of 2014, was premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival on January 17. Her portrayal of a young soldier stationed at Guantanamo Bay detention camp won positive reviews from the critics. David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter called it "her best screen work to date [playing the role of] an inexperienced military guard", while Xan Brooks of The Guardian said, "It's a role that reminds us what a fine performer she was in the likes of Into the Wild and Adventureland.". In 2014 she appeared in Jenny Lewis' "One of The Guys" music video, and in The New York Times short movie 9 Kisses, which featured best performing actor.
Stewart next appeared alongside Juliette Binoche and Chloë Grace Moretz in Clouds of Sils Maria. The film had its premiere at 2014 Cannes Film Festival. Her performance in the film earned her critical acclaim. Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter said that "Stewart's habitual low-keyed style, which can border on the monotone, functions as effectively underplayed contrast." Peter Debruge of Variety praised her, saying that "Stewart is the one who actually embodies what Binoche's character most fears, countering the older actress’ more studied technique with the same spontaneous, agitated energy that makes her the most compellingly watchable American actress of her generation." Robbie Collin of the Daily Telegraph praised her, saying "...it's Stewart who really shines here. Valentine is probably her best role to date: she's sharp and subtle, knowable and then suddenly distant, and a late, surprising twist is handled with a brilliant lightness of touch."
For the role Stewart won a César Award for Best Supporting Actress, becoming the first American actress to receive a nomination in thirty years. She is the second American winner after Adrien Brody, who won César Award for Best Actor in 2003.
Stewart appeared alongside Julianne Moore in Still Alice, a drama film that had its world premiere at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival. Her performance received praise from critics. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone called her "wonderfully vibrant and contentious" and said: "Even when Still Alice sometimes slips into sentiment, Moore and Stewart are funny, fierce and glorious.
In 2015, she was named #1 for Glamour magazine's "Best Dressed Women". And she appeared in Tim Blake Nelson's Anesthesia, an indie drama about a group of New Yorkers, which was released on January 8, 2016. and costarred with Jesse Eisenberg again in American Ultra (2015), which was filmed from April to June 2014, and was released on August 21, 2015. In December 2015 she starred in Once and Forever as Irys Duke for Chanel which was directed by Karl Lagerfeld.
Stewart co-starred along with Nicholas Hoult in Drake Doremus' futuristic love story Equals which was released on July 15, 2016. The filming took place in Japan and Singapore from August to September 2014. In 2015, Stewart was confirmed to join Certain Women directed by Kelly Reichardt and was released on October 14, 2016 . In 2016, she starred in the Woody Allen movie Café Society, opposite Steve Carell and Jesse Eisenberg, marking her third collaboration with the latter. it was released on July 15, 2016. She also co-starred in Ang Lee's war drama Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, which was released on November 11, 2016. In December 2016, Stewart appeared in the music video for the Rolling Stones' single "Ride 'Em on Down".
Stewart reunited with Clouds of Sils Maria director Olivier Assayas to lead his next film Personal Shopper, a ghost story that takes place in the fashion underworld. Assayas won Best Director at the Cannes Film Festival for the film, which was released in the US in March 2017.
Stewart wants to direct a film. She told Vanity Fair, "I think that I'd be pretty good at getting people on the same plane and on the sort of train." At the Sundance Film Festival premiere of her indie drama, Certain Women, Stewart was asked how often she gets offers from big movie franchises. She said that she receives very few such offers.
On May 2, 2016, it was announced that Stewart will make her directorial debut with a short film titled Water for female-focused digital publisher Refinery29. The short will be part of their ShatterBox Anthology. In July 2016, it was confirmed that Stewart's short film will be titled Come Swim in an interview with Philippine Daily Inquirer. It had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2017. During the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, Stewart revealed that her next short film will be about gun control. In December 2016, Stewart starred in the official music video for "Ride 'Em On Down" by The Rolling Stones. Stewart will next appear alongside Chloë Sevigny in Lizzie revolving around Lizzie Borden, directed by Craig William Macneill.
Stewart in is negotiations to star in a biopic about JT LeRoy alongside Helena Bonham Carter and James Franco. The film will be directed by Justin Kelly with production set to start in the summer. Stewart was in final negotiations to star in Underwater, an adventure-thriller film directed and co-written by William Eubank.
In 2017 Stewart coauthored a computer science preprint about the use of Neural net techniques in the making of her short film Come Swim. Consequently, when that preprint is published she will have an Erdos number of six (or less) via coauthor Bhautik Joshi and his coauthor Sébastien Ourselin - and an Erdős–Bacon number of eight.
Stewart lives in Los Angeles. She previously dated her Twilight co-star Robert Pattinson. She later dated visual effects producer Alicia Cargile and French singer Soko. Since late 2016, she has been dating New Zealander Victoria's Secret angel model, Stella Maxwell.
In her February 4, 2017 appearance on Saturday Night Live, Stewart described herself as "so gay", though in an interview with The Guardian she clarified that she was bisexual, saying "you're not confused if you're bisexual. It's not confusing at all. For me, it's quite the opposite." Similarly in an interview with Harper's Bazaar in August 2017, Stewart stated that she was open to dating men again saying "I want to try everything".
Stewart has received a César Award, a Milano Film Festival award, a Young Artist Award and the BAFTA Rising Star Award. She won the National Society of Film Critics, New York Film Critics Circle, and Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Clouds of Sils Maria.