Mammootty was born Muhammad Kutty Ismail Paniparambil on 7 September 1951 in Chandiroor in Alappuzha district, and raised in the village of Chempu near Vaikom in Kottayam district in the present-day state of Kerala, India in a middle-class, Muslim family. His father, Ismail, was a farmer and his mother, Fatima, a housewife. He was their eldest son. He has two younger brothers, Ibrahimkutty and Zakariah and three younger sisters, Ameena, Sauda and Shafina.

Mammootty went to Government High School, Kulasekharamangalam, Kottayam for his primary education. In the 1960s, his father moved the family to Ernakulam, where he attended Government School Ernakulam. He did his pre-university course (pre-degree) at Sacred Heart College, Thevara. He attended Maharaja's College, Ernakulam for his degree. He graduated with a LL.B. from Government Law College, Ernakulam. Mammootty practiced law for two years in Manjeri.

Mammootty married Sulfath in 1979, and has a daughter Surumi (born 1982), and a son Dulquer Salmaan (born 1986). Mammootty's younger brother Ibrahimkutty is an actor in Malayalam films and Malayalam TV serials. Ibrahimkutty's son Maqbool Salmaan is also a film actor.

Mammootty's debut was in the 1971 film Anubhavangal Paalichakal, directed by K. S. Sethumadhavan. His second film was Kaalachakram, a 1973 Malayalam film directed by K. Narayanan. He acted in theatre drama Sabarmathi in 1975. In 1979, he played his first lead role in Devalokam, directed by M. T. Vasudevan Nair. His 2015 releases were Fireman, directed by Deepu Karunakaran, Bhaskar the Rascal, directed by Siddique, a commercial success, Acha Dhin, directed by Marthandan. Utopiayile Rajavu, directed by Kamal and Pathemari, directed by Salim Ahamed, were both commercial and critical success.

Mammootty has acted in a few non-Malayalam movies and these include some Tamil, Telugu, Hindi, Kannada and English films. In 1990, he made his Tamil debut in Mounam Sammadham, directed by K. Madhu. He has acted in Tamil films for directors including K. Balachander (Azhagan), Mani Ratnam (Thalapathy), Fazil (Kilippechu Kekkavaa), N. Linguswamy (Aanandham), R.K.Selvamani(Makkal Atchi), Henri(Marumalarchi),Ethirum Puthirum and Rajiv Menon (Kandukondain Kandukondain) (1993). He played the role of Anantha Sharma in K. Vishwanath's Telugu film Swathi Kiranam (1992).

Mammootty has won three National Film Awards, five Kerala State Film Awards, thirteen Filmfare Awards, eleven Kerala Film Critics Awards and five Asianet Film Awards (from fourteen nominations). In 1998, the government of India honoured Mammootty with its fourth highest civilian award, Padma Shri for his contribution to the Indian film industry. He was conferred with the Doctor of Letters degree by University of Calicut and University of Kerala in 2010. He is the patron of the Pain and Palliative Care Society, a charitable organisation in Kerala formed with the aim of improving the quality of life among patients with advanced cancer. He has also been working with the Pain and Palliative Care Centre in Kozhikode, India.

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