Tandon attended Jamnabai Narsee School in Juhu and studied at Mithibai College. She completed her first and second years at the college. During her time as an intern, she got her first film offer from Shantanu Sheorey which she accepted. She dropped out of college and decided to pursue her film career.
Raveena Tandon debuted with the film Patthar Ke Phool (1991) which was a hit; she received the Filmfare Award for Lux New Face of the Year for her performance.
Her next films Mohra (1994) and Dilwale (1994) were big hits at the box. Laadla (1994) earned her a nomination for the Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress. Mohra was the second biggest hit of 1994. Her other releases of that year included the thriller Imtihaan and the 1994 cult-classic comedy Andaz Apna Apna with Aamir Khan, Salman Khan and Karisma Kapoor. The former was also a hit.
In 1995, she starred with Shahrukh Khan for the first time in Zamaana Deewana; the film failed to do well.
Her career was back on track with hit films like Khiladiyon Ka Khiladi (1996) and Ziddi (1997), both being big hits of their respective year.
In 1998, Tandon had eight releases. Her last release of that year, Bade Miyan Chote Miyan, co-starring Amitabh Bachchan and Govinda turned out to be the second biggest hit of the year. Tandon was offered the second lead in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai which went on to be the biggest hit of 1998, but she turned it down. Her other releases of that year were Gharwali Baharwali which gained a below average status, Vinashak, Pardesi Babu and Aunty No. 1, all of which were unsuccessful.
In 1999, Tandon starred opposite Upendra in his self-titled Kannada psychological thriller film, Upendra.
In the 2000s, Tandon turned her career professional. She went on to work more with art film directors and realistic cinema. It proved to be a good turning as films like Shool (1999), Bulandi (2000) and Aks (2001) won her huge acclaim. She won many awards as well as the Filmfare Special Performance Award for her performance in Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra's Aks.
Her years in the industry paid off when she won the coveted National Film Award for Best Actress for her performance in Kalpana Lajmi's Daman: A Victim of Marital Violence (2001), where she played a battered wife to an abusive husband. She surprised critics and audiences with her performance in the film and received much appreciation for her work. Critic Taran Adarsh said: "Raveena Tandon lends credibility to the role of a battered wife and walks away with the honours. The pathos she conveys through her expressions makes you realise that she's a performer of substance".
Since then, she has starred in a number of critically acclaimed films, such as Satta (2003) and Dobara (2004), but has not had much box office success. Her role as a middle class woman thrust into the world of politics in the former was praised. Critic Taran Adarsh wrote: "Raveena Tandon delivers a bravura performance. The actress takes giant strides as a performer, giving the right touches to her character. Here's a performance that's bound to be noticed". Her role as a schizophrenic in Dobara was also praised with one critic saying: "Raveena is in sync with her character, playing her part with elaan". Her only release in 2006 was Sandwich which opened to poor reviews and reception.
In 2015, she made a comeback to Bollywood in longtime friend Anurag Kashayp's magnum opus Bombay Velvet. Playing a sultry jazz singer, her brief performance was lauded by critics. She is currently filming Onir's Shab, where she plays a socialite. In addition, she has also reportedly committed to Anurag Kashyap's Return Gift. She will be next seen in the thriller movie "Maatr".
She adopted two girls, Pooja and Chhaya, as a single mother in 1995 when they were 11 and 8 years old, respectively.
Tandon began dating film distributor Anil Thadani during the making of her film Stumped (2003). Their engagement was announced in November 2003. She married Thadani on 22 February 2004 in Jag Mandir Palace in Udaipur, Rajasthan according to Punjabi traditions. She gave birth to a baby girl named Rasha on 16 March 2005 and had her second child, a baby boy named Ranbir, on 12 July 2007.
Tandon was chairperson of the Children's Film Society of India from 2003, but from 2004 the actress began to get complaints that she did not attend the organisation's meetings and that she was not involved with the activities set up by the society. In September 2005, Tandon resigned from her post citing personal reasons.
In November 2005, Tandon sued the websites, Shaadi.com and Shaaditimes.com, claiming that they were using unauthorized images of her to promote the site. She also sued the owner Satyanet Solutions, as they claimed that Tandon and her husband had met through the website.
In November 2002, Tandon sang to support People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. She has posed in many advertisement campaigns joining the likes of Shilpa Shetty, Amisha Patel and John Abraham. On the issue of cows being slaughtered for their skin, she said "Their abuse at the hands of corrupt skin and meat traders must be stopped".