Sarah Polley began acting at age four, but it was Atom Egoyan's The Sweet Hereafter in 1997 that marked her breakthrough into adult roles. Sarah earned her first Best Actress Genie Award nomination from the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television for her performance in The Sweet Hereafter, as well as Best Supporting Actress awards from the Boston and Chicago Societies of Film Critics.
Sarah starred along side Adrien Brody in the extremely well-received sci-fi film SPLICE, directed by Vincenco Natali. Before that, Sarah starred in Jaco van Dormeal's fantasy drama Mr. Nobody, and in the award-winning HBO miniseries John Adams.
Her film credits include Zack Snyder's remake of George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead; Doug Liman's Go; Kathryn Bigelow's The Weight of Water; David Cronenberg's eXistenZ; Hal Hartley's No Such Thing; Thom Fitzgerald's The Event; Isabel Coixet's My Life Without Me, for which she earned a Best Actress Genie Award; The Secret Life of Words; Audrey Wells' Guinevere; Wim Wenders' Don't Come Knocking; Michael Winterbottom's The Claim; Atom Egoyan's Exotica; and Terry Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.
Sarah made her feature film directorial debut with the 2006 drama Away From Her, for which she also wrote the Oscar-nominated screenplay based on Alice Munro's short story The Bear Came Over the Mountain. Critically acclaimed around the globe, Away From Her was a gala selection at the Sundance and Toronto Film Festivals and earned Genie Awards for Best Direction and Best Screenplay. Sarah also received awards for Best Direction and Best Feature Film from the Directors Guild of Canada, Best Screenplay from the San Francisco Film Critics, the New Generation Award from the Los Angeles Film Critics and Best First Film from the New York Film Critics.
In 2009, Sarah received an honorary Doctorate degree from Trent University.
The show The Road to Avonlea was picked up by the Disney Channel for distribution in the United States. At the age of 12 (around 1991), Polley attended an awards ceremony while wearing a peace sign to protest the first Gulf War. Disney executives asked her to remove it, and she refused. This soured her relationship with Disney, and she left Road to Avonlea in 1994. The show itself was cancelled in 1996 (to which she publicly claimed indifference), although she did return as Sara Stanley for an episode in 1995 and for the final episode in 1996.