Oberoi was born in Hyderabad, Telangana to Punjabi father Suresh Oberoi, a veteran Bollywood character actor and a Tamil mother Yashodhara Oberoi, sister of Rajkumar Mandradiar, native of Coimbatore, belonging to the Mandradiar and Palayakottai Pattakarar family of Kangeyam, erstwile Polygar rulers of that region. Suresh Oberoi was not an actor at the time of his marriage, but was running a chain of Medical stores which was his family business. He would later join Film and Television Institute of India.
Vivek did his schooling from Hyderabad Public School and later went on to study at Mayo College, Ajmer. Thereafter, he attended Mithibai College, Juhu. At an actors' workshop in London he was spotted by the director of New York University who took Vivek to New York, where he completed his master's degree in film acting. Vivek also worked as a script writer in India.
Oberoi made his debut with Ram Gopal Varma's film Company. He received Filmfare Awards for Best Debut as well as Best Supporting Actor. He then starred in the action films Road and Dum. In Dum, he played the role of a man trying to become a part of the Indian police, but faces many troubles with a police inspector.
Next, he starred in Saathiya (2002), directed by Shaad Ali. The film was a big hit at the box office and earned him a Filmfare nomination in the Best Actor category. He starred in the comedy Masti (2004). In 2004, he also starred in Yuva. In 2005, he acted as the title character in the film Kisna: The Warrior Poet.
In 2006, he appeared in Omkara, an adaptation of Shakespeare's play Othello. He played the character of Kesu, based on the character Michael Cassio in the original play. After seeing Oberoi's performance, Gulzar congratulated him.
In 2007, he acted as the gangster Maya Dolas in the multi-starrer Shootout at Lokhandwala,
In 2008, Oberoi starred in Mission Istanbul, which was directed by Apoorva Lakhia and produced by Ekta Kapoor. He performed to the song Apun Ke Saath, produced for the film by Vikas Kohli, at the 2008 International Indian Film Academy Awards.
In 2009, he played a supporting role in the movie Kurbaan. In 2010, he appeared in Prince, which failed to receive a good response from the audience, despite initial box office success. In the same year, he appeared in Ram Gopal Varma's Rakht Charitra. Here, he played the role of the Telugu politician Paritala Ravi.
Oberoi is slated to play the lead role in the film Bloody Paki, that will be directed by Shaad Ali and Shiva and produced by Mani Ratnam. Vivek Oberoi's film Kismat Love Paisa Dilli, which released in October 2012, failed to impress the audience and was a box office failure. Vivek produced a film named Watch Indian Circus in 2011. The film got featured in the 16th Busan Film festival, which had thousands of people as the audience, in the age group of 16–40 years, who voted the film as the best, and made it win the Audience Choice Award for Best Film from 3000 films worldwide and amongst 380 films screened. In 16 years of the history of Busan, this is the First Indian Film to win this acclaimed and prestigious award. The Film has already received rave reviews from international critics and reporters from Hollywood Reporter, Variety and Screen International. Oberoi has dubbed the voice of Electro in the Hindi-dubbed version of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which was released in May 2014.
Oberoi will work with YRF banner's film Bank Chor, with Rhea Chakraborty and Riteish Deshmukh. Oberoi will be working with this banner after 12 years.
Oberoi was awarded the Red and White Bravery Award in 2006 for helping re-build a village which was hit severely by the tsunami. Oberoi was in Chennai when disaster struck and assembled six truckloads of relief supplies and also adopted a tsunami-ravaged village in the Cuddalore district of Tamil Nadu. Oberoi and his family founded The Yashodhara Oberoi Foundation (YOF). Oberoi serves as the World Health Organization's anti-tobacco spokesperson. He is involved with several charities in Chennai and Mumbai. His work with Project Hope to bring relief to victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami earned him a Good Samaritan Award from Rotary International.
He did a lot of philanthropic activities such as Project Devi, Cancer Patients Aid Association and Banyan, which works towards rehabilitating mentally challenged homeless women. In all, Vivek has donated about Rs 3 million (Rs 30 lakh) and helped raise Rs 25 million (Rs 250 lakh).
Oberoi dated his Kyun! Ho Gaya Na... co-star Aishwarya Rai. In 2003, Oberoi claimed that Rai's former boyfriend Salman Khan had threatened him, Oberoi and Rai broke up not long afterwards.
On 29 October 2010, Oberoi married Priyanka Alva, daughter of Karnataka minister Jeevaraj Alva, in Bangalore. The couple have a son, Vivaan, born on 6 February 2013 and a daughter, Ameyaa, born on 21 April 2015.
He credits Kareena Kapoor as his inspiration for adopting a vegetarian diet, and he has often turned up on PETA's annual list of Sexiest Vegetarians.
Vivek Oberoi’s company KARRM Infrastructure has donated 25 flats in the Thane district of Maharashtra to the families of Central Reserve Police Force officers killed in action.