Born in Beirut, Lebanon, Yared went on to score the French films Betty Blue and Camille Claudel. He later worked on English language films, particularly those directed by Anthony Minghella. He won an Oscar and a Grammy Award for his work on The English Patient (1996) and was nominated for both The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999) and Cold Mountain (2003).
At the age of 7, his father sent Yared to an accordion teacher. Two years later he stopped his accordion lessons and started music theory and piano lessons. Although he was not necessarily a gifted pianist, Yared was interested in reading music. When Yared was 14, his piano teacher died and he replaced him as the organist of Université Saint-Joseph. He used the university's library to read the works of Johann Sebastian Bach, Robert Schumann, and many other composers. This extensive reading inspired his first original composition, a piano waltz.
Yared gained a degree in law and did not formally study music at the university level until he traveled to France in 1969 to attend the École Normale de Musique de Paris as a non-registered student. There he learned the rules of music composition from Henri Dutilleux.
At the end of 1971, Yared went to Brazil to visit his uncle and was asked by the president of the World Federation of Light Music Festivals to write a song to represent the Lebanese in the Rio de Janeiro Song Festival. The song he composed went on to win first prize. While in Brazil, he also performed with a small orchestra. Yared subsequently said that his time in Brazil greatly influenced his work.
He then went back to France, where he met and collaborated with the Costa Brothers, Jacques Dutronc, Françoise Hardy, Charles Aznavour, Mireille Mathieu, and numerous other musicians. This was a prolific period for the composer and he wrote nearly three thousand pieces over a span of about six years. His contributions included a number of radio and TV jingles, such as TF1 news jingles and an episode on the series In the Tracks of.
Yared is best known for his collaborations with the late Anthony Minghella. His first collaboration with Minghella was the 1996 film The English Patient, which was highly acclaimed and won him an Oscar for Best Original Score. He composed the scores for all of Minghella's subsequent films and the music for the television series The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, co-created by Minghella and Richard Curtis.
Aside from his work with Minghella, Yared scored a number of other films, including Betty Blue (1986), City of Angels (1998), Message in a Bottle (1999), Autumn in New York (2000), The Next Best Thing (2000), Possession (2002), and Bon Voyage (2003).
In 2004, Yared's score for the film Troy was rejected less than a month before the film's opening as a result of the poor reception by a test screening audience. The test audience were said to have found Yared's music too "brassy and bold". James Horner, the composer of the scores for such films as Braveheart and Titanic was then hired to create a replacement score in less than four weeks.
Yared expressed his dismay at the score's rejection in an open letter which was posted on his website. He said that the score which the test audience had heard was not yet finished and mixed properly, and that the studio had given him no opportunity to alter his score in light of the audience's reaction.
Warner Bros. still owns the rights to Yared's Troy score and an official recording is not currently available and may never be (although selections from the score were briefly posted on Yared's website and private promotional CD).
Film score critic Christian Clemmensen of Filmtracks.com felt that Yared's work for Troy was far superior to what Horner had written, giving Horner's score a 3-star rating and Yared's a 5-star rating, saying that it was "outstanding," and called it the "pinnacle of Yared's career." 
Yared created the score to the narrative ballet Raven Girl choreographed to the Royal Ballet by Wayne McGregor after the story by Audrey Niffenegger.
Yared has been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Score on three occasions. He won for The English Patient in 1996. He was also nominated for The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999) and Cold Mountain (2003), but lost to John Corigliano and Howard Shore, respectively. He has also received three Golden Globe and three BAFTA nominations for the same films, and won both awards for The English Patient.
He has been nominated for two Grammy Awards, again winning for The English Patient.