Sam Elliott was born in Sacramento, California to Glynn Mamie (née Sparks), a physical training instructor and high school teacher, and Henry Nelson Elliott.
Elliott began his film career with minor appearances in The Way West (1967) and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), and guest-starred on television in the Western Gunsmoke (1972) and the television films Murder in Texas (1981) and The Shadow Riders (1982). His film breakthrough was in the drama Lifeguard (1976). He then appeared in several Louis L'Amour adaptations such as The Quick and the Dead (1987) and Conagher (1991), the latter of which earned him a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film. He received his second Golden Globe and first Primetime Emmy Award nominations for Buffalo Girls (1995). Other film credits from the early 1990s include as John Buford in the historical drama Gettysburg (1993) and as Virgil Earp in the Western Tombstone (also 1993).
In the 2000s, Elliott appeared in supporting roles in the drama We Were Soldiers (2002), and the action films Hulk (2003), and Ghost Rider (2007). In 2015, he guest-starred on the series Justified, which earned him a Critics' Choice Television Award, and in 2016 began starring in the Netflix series The Ranch. He subsequently had a lead role in the comedy-drama The Hero (2017). The following year, Elliott was cast in the musical drama A Star Is Born (2018), for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, a Critics' Choice Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award and won a National Board of Review Award.
- 1976: Listed as one of 12 "Promising New Actors of 1976" in John Willis's Screen World, Vol. 28.
- Fifth husband of Katharine Ross.
- To date, he is the first (and only) actor to be nominated for an Emmy for guest-performing on Robot Chicken (2005).