Cooper has a B.A. in English from Georgetown University (1997) and an MFA in acting from Actors Studio Drama School at The New School (2000). He first gained recognition in the spy-action television show Alias and the television drama Jack & Bobby. He later appeared in supporting roles in the romantic comedies Wedding Crashers (2005), Yes Man (2008), and He's Just Not That Into You (2009). His breakthrough role came with the comedy franchise The Hangover trilogy (2009–13). Other notable films include the action-comedy The A-Team (2010), the thriller Limitless (2011), the crime drama The Place Beyond the Pines (2013), and the superhero film Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), in which he voiced Rocket Raccoon.
Cooper garnered consecutive Oscar nominations from 2013 to 2015 for his roles in the romantic comedy Silver Linings Playbook (2012), the comedy-drama American Hustle (2013), and the biographical war drama American Sniper (2014). For producing American Sniper, Cooper also received an Academy Award for Best Picture nomination. For starring in the 2014 Broadway revival of the play The Elephant Man, Cooper garnered a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play nomination.