He was born in Cleveland, Ohio in March 28, 1968. His mother was a teacher and his father, Martin Perlich, a writer and radio programming director and announcer, worked for a time with the Cleveland Orchestra. The Perlich family moved to Los Angeles, California when Max was four.
Perlich’s career began with a small part in the hit teen comedy Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986), which came after he had dropped out of high school in the 10th grade. Thus began his appearances in a series of bit parts on television and in teen films such as Can’t Buy Me Love (1987), Plain Clothes (1988), Gleaming the Cube, Lost Angels, and Drugstore Cowboy (1989). He was also in the films Rush (1991), The Butcher’s Wife (1991), Cliffhanger (1993), Maverick (1994), Shake, Rattle and Rock (1994), Georgia (1995), Beautiful Girls (1996), Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco (1996), House on Haunted Hill (1999), Blow (2001), Street Warrior (2008), InSight (2011), Night of the Templar (2013), and Bullet (2014).
After a recurring role as J. H. Brodie on Homicide: Life on the Street (1997), Perlich had other roles on television series such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1998), Charmed (2005), My Name Is Earl (2006), and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008), Burn Notice (2010), Hawaii Five-0 (2012), Justified (2012–2014), and Twin Peaks (2017). He is also featured in the music videos "No Excuses" by Alice in Chains and "Naked Eye" by Luscious Jackson.