After receiving a fellowship with the PIA, Sono made his first feature-length 16 mm film in 1990, Bicycle Sighs (Jitensha Toiki), a coming-of-age tale about two underachievers in perfectionist Japan. Sono co-wrote, directed, and starred in the film.
In 1992, Sono's second feature film The Room (Heya), also written by himself, was a bizarre tale about a serial killer looking for a room in a bleak, doomed Tokyo district. It participated at the Tokyo Sundance Film Festival and won the Special Jury Prize. The Room also toured on 49 festivals worldwide, including the Berlin Film Festival and the Rotterdam Film Festival.
In 2005 he wrote and directed Into a Dream (Yume no Naka e), which also released as a novel later on, and was a coming-of-age tale much in the style of his first film Bicycle Sighs, about the life of a theatre group member and his quest to find who he is. Few weeks after that, he released a sequel to Suicide Circle, based on the Kanzenban novel. Noriko's Dinner Table was also directed and written by him, and was part of twelve film festivals worldwide. For this movie he worked with many first-time actors, and took the Suicide Circle story into a different level. For his efforts, he received a Don Quijote Award and a Special Mention at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival.
At the end of 2005, Sion Sono also premiered a personal project with actors Issei Ishida and Masumi Miyazaki. Strange Circus (Kimyô na Sâkasu), directed, written, composed and cinematographed by Sono, took elements from the Grand Guignol theater and a story from the minds of both Masumi and Sono, filled with incest, sexual abuse, terrible family issues, extreme gore, and a twisted sense of reality.
In 2008, he was the director and writer of Love Exposure. Love Exposure is the first film in Sono's "Hate" trilogy; the films Cold Fish, released in 2010, and Guilty of Romance, released in 2011, are the second and third installments of the trilogy respectively. 2011 saw Sono be recognized in the United States with his work being highlighted in the cinema series Sion Sono: The New Poet presented at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City.
In 2013 he directed the action-drama Why Don't You Play in Hell? (Jigoku de naze warui). Following shortly after, he directed an adaptation of popular manga series Tokyo Tribe.
His next project, which begins filming in March 2015, looks to be a documentary on the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, produced with avant-garde group Chimpom.
In The Hollywood Reporter, Clarence Tsui writes that Sono has "established himself as one of the most idiosyncratic artists of his generation". Often considered a provocateur, Mike Hale of The New York Times argues that he is "the most recognizable, if not the most universally celebrated, director in Japan", which Sono himself explains by stating (in Hale's words) that Japanese critics generally "reserve their approval for work that doesn’t 'embarrass' the nation." The director has said, "I do think an international audience understands my work more.”
Sono received the following awards for his films:2003: Fantasia International Film Festival - Most Ground-Breaking Film and Fantasia Ground-Breaker Award (Suicide Club)
2005: Karlovy Vary International Film Festival - Don Quijote Award and Special Mention (Noriko's Dinner Table)
2006: Berlin International Film Festival - Reader Jury of the "Berliner Zeitung" (Strange Circus)
2007: Austin Fantastic Fest - Best Film (Exte)
2009: Berlin International Film Festival - FIPRESCI Prize and Caligari Film Award (Love Exposure)
2009: Fant-Asia Film Festival - Best Asian Film, Most Innovative Film and Special Jury Prize (Love Exposure)
2010: Mainichi Film Concours - Best Director (Love Exposure)
2015: Fantasia International Film Festival - Cheval Noir Award for Best Film (Tag)
2015: Fantasia International Film Festival - Special Mention for its creative, surprising and monumental opening kill sequence (Tag)
2015: Fantasia International Film Festival - Audience Award for Best Asian Feature (Love and Peace)
2015: Toronto International Film Festival - NETPAC Award for World or International Asian Film Premiere (The Whispering Star)
Sono also received the following nominations for his films:2005: Karlovy Vary International Film Festival - Crystal Globe (Noriko's Dinner Table)
2009: Asia Pacific Screen Awards - Achievement in Directing (Love Exposure)
2010: Asian Film Awards - Best Director (Love Exposure)