Bleibtreu grew up in Hamburg. His first appearance on TV was in the late seventies on a children's television series called Neues aus Uhlenbusch, written by his mother Monica and Rainer Boldt. Next roles in Boldt's Ich hatte einen Traum and beside his mother Monica in miniseries Mit meinen heißen Tränen. After he left school when he was 16, he lived in Paris and New York City where he attended acting school. In 1992 he began his acting career at the age of 21 at the Schauspielhaus in Hamburg. He also had numerous small parts in television productions.
He is best known for starring in Knockin' On Heaven's Door (1997), Run Lola Run (1998), Im Juli (2000), Lammbock (2001), Das Experiment (2001), Solino (2002), Agnes and His Brothers (2004), Munich (2005), The Keeper: The Legend of Omar Khayyam (2005), The Stone Council (2005), Elementarteilchen (2006), La Masseria Delle Allodole (2007) and The Walker (2007).
His surname in German means "remain faithful".