Bridges was born May 27, 1965, in San Francisco, California. He is the son of Betty Alice Pryor, an actress, director, and manager, and James Bridges, Sr., a talent agent. Bridges' brother Jimmy Bridges, nieces Penny Bridges, Brooke Bridges and Rachel Bridges, and sister Verda Bridges are all actors. Bridges' son, Spencir Bridges (born July 15, 1998), with his now ex-wife Dori Bridges (née Smith), is also a child actor who appeared in the film Daddy Day Camp and an iCarly episode. Bridges has a daughter, Bo Bridges, from a previous relationship.
In his 20s, Bridges battled a crack cocaine addiction for several years. In 1989, he was arrested and tried for the attempted murder of Kenneth "Tex" Clay, a Los Angeles area drug dealer who, prosecutors argued, had been shot by Bridges. Bridges pleaded not guilty to the charges and was represented by the high-profile defense attorney Johnnie Cochran. Cochran argued that Bridges was an abused minor who had been driven to drugs by an exploitative entertainment industry and was now being unfairly framed. A witness finally testified that Bridges was not present at the time of the shooting. Bridges was acquitted of all charges by a jury.
Bridges appeared on The Waltons, Little House on the Prairie, and the landmark miniseries Roots, and was a regular on the Barney Miller spinoff Fish. But it was playing Willis Jackson, on the long-running sitcom Diff'rent Strokes, that made his a household name, along with those of fellow co-stars Conrad Bain, Dana Plato, and Gary Coleman. Bridges, Mary Jo Catlett, Danny Cooksey, and Charlotte Rae are Diff'rent Strokes' only surviving cast members.
Bridges defeated Vanilla Ice on a 2002 episode of Celebrity Boxing. In 2006, Bridges appeared as a contestant on a celebrity episode of Fear Factor but was eliminated after the first stunt.
Also in 2006, he appeared as a contestant on the Fox reality show Skating with Celebrities but was eliminated on the second episode of the show, because he was using roller skates instead of ice skates.
In January 2007, he appeared as a member of the "mob" on the US version of the game show 1 vs. 100. In the November 14, 2007 episode of MyNetworkTV's show, Decision House, titled "Burned Bridges", he appeared with his wife, Dori Bridges. He also had a recurring role on the sitcom Everybody Hates Chris.
In March 2008, Bridges appeared on TruTV Presents: World's Dumbest...; he continues to appear as a frequent commentator. That same year in October, he debuted as one of the contestants on Hulk Hogan's Celebrity Championship Wrestling, on the CMT Network. He was a member of Team Beefcake (coached by former wrestler Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake). On the show, Bridges' wrestling persona was the character "Mr. Not So Perfect." In one episode, he put the smackdown on Tonya Harding, with a lead pipe. The judges praised him for his athleticism and his cunning at defeating Harding. After reaching the finals along with Butterbean and Dustin Diamond, Bridges was defeated by Dennis Rodman.
In 2015, Bridges was the host of a live game show, Lovers or Losers: The Game Show, at the Plaza Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Bridges has appeared in a few music videos. His first music video appearance was in Penny Ford's single "Change Your Wicked Ways" (1984). Almost 15 years later, he made a cameo in Moby's 2002 music video for "We Are All Made of Stars". In 2011, he appeared in the video for The Black Keys single "Howlin' for You".
In 1998, Todd Bridges and his brother James Bridges were credited with saving the life of a 51-year-old paraplegic woman, Stella Kline. The woman nearly drowned when her wheelchair rolled into a lake while she was fishing. Quoting Kline, "I was thanking God that he was there, and you know, everybody's been saying nothing but bad stuff about Todd Bridges on the news and in the papers... He has a heart of gold." Todd Bridges remarked on the rescue, "We felt God put us there at the right time to save this lady's life, because there was no one else around."
Bridges wrote a book, Killing Willis: From Diff'rent Strokes to the Mean Streets to the Life I Always Wanted (2008), discussing his childhood sexual abuse, drug addiction, criminal charges, and efforts to establish a public identity independent of the character, "Willis," he portrayed. He appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show on April 28, 2010, to discuss the troubled past he chronicles in his memoir.