Hauer's career began in 1969 with the title role in the Dutch television series Floris, and surged with the hugely successful Turkish Delight in 1973. After rising to international stardom with Soldier of Orange in 1977, he moved into American films such as Nighthawks, as an international terrorist, and Blade Runner, as existentially aware android Roy Batty.
That acclaimed performance bought leading roles in titles such as The Osterman Weekend, Ladyhawke, Flesh+Blood, The Hitcher, Escape from Sobibor (for which he won a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor), Blind Fury, The Blood of Heroes, and Wedlock. In the 1990s he began to move into prominent supporting roles in films including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Sin City, Batman Begins, and The Rite, with occasional starring roles such as Hobo with a Shotgun.
Hauer was an environmentalist. Hauer also established an AIDS awareness organization called the Rutger Hauer Starfish Association. He was made a knight in the Order of the Netherlands Lion in 2013.
Hauer died on July 19, 2019 at his home in Beetsterzwaag at the age of 75, following a short illness.