Jarman was born in Northwood, Middlesex. His father was a military officer, born in New Zealand, and his mother was half-Jewish. He boarded at Canford School in Dorset, and from 1960 studied at King's College London. This was followed by four years at the Slade School of Art, University College London, starting in 1963. He had a studio at Butler's Wharf, London, and was part of the Andrew Logan social scene in the 1970s. Jarman was outspoken about homosexuality, his never-ending public fight for gay rights, and his personal struggle with AIDS.
On 22 December 1986, Jarman was diagnosed as HIV positive, and discussed his condition in public. His illness prompted him to move to Prospect Cottage, Dungeness in Kent, near the nuclear power station. In 1994, he died of an AIDS-related illness in London, aged 52. He is buried in the graveyard at St Clements Church, Old Romney, Kent.
- Sebastiane (1976)
- Jubilee (1977)
- The Tempest (1979)
- The Angelic Conversation (1985)
- Caravaggio (1986)
- The Last of England (1988)
- War Requiem (1989)
- The Garden (1990)
- Edward II (1991)
- Wittgenstein (1993)
- Blue (1993)
- Electric Fairy (1971)
- Studio Bankside (1971)
- Garden of Luxor (1972)
- Burning the Pyramids (1972)
- Miss Gaby (1972)
- A Journey to Avebury (1971)
- Andrew Logan Kisses the Glitterati (1972)
- Tarot (aka the Magician, 1972)
- Sulphur (1973)
- Stolen Apples for Karen Blixen (1973)
- Miss World (1973)
- The Devils at the Elgin (aka Reworking the Devils, 1974)
- Fire Island (1974)
- Duggie Fields (1974)
- Ula's Fete (aka Ula's Chandelier, 1975)
- Picnic at Ray's (1975)
- Sebastian Wrap (1975)
- Sloane Square: A Room of One's Own (1976)
- Gerald's Film (1976)
- Art and the Pose (1976)
- Houston Texas (1976)
- Jordan's Dance (1977)
- Every Woman for Herself and All for Art (1977)
- The Pantheon (1978)
- In the Shadow of the Sun (1974) (in 1980 Throbbing Gristle was commissioned to provide a new soundtrack for this 54 minute film eponymous piece by Throbbing Gristle)
- T.G.: Psychic Rally in Heaven (1981)
- Jordan's Wedding (1981)
- Pirate Tape (William S. Burroughs Film) (1982)
- Waiting for Waiting for Godot (1982)
- Pontormo and Punks at Santa Croce (1982)
- B2 Tape/Film (1983)
- Catalan (1984)
- Imagining October (1984)
- Aria (1987)
- segment: Depuis le Jour
- L'Ispirazione (1988)
- Glitterbug (1994) (one-hour compilation film of various Super-8 shorts with music by Brian Eno)
- Jarman's early Super-8 mm work has been included on some of the DVD releases of his films.
- The Sex Pistols: The Sex Pistols Number One (1976). Early live footage of the band.
- Marianne Faithfull: "Broken English", "Witches' Song", and "The Ballad of Lucy Jordan" (all 1979)
- Throbbing Gristle: TG Psychic Rally in Heaven (1981).
- Language: "Touch The Radio Dance" (1984) (notable because it was shown at the Museum of Modern Art)
- Orange Juice: "What Presence?!" (1984).
- Marc Almond: "Tenderness Is a Weakness" (1984).
- The Smiths:
- The Queen Is Dead, a short film incorporating the Smiths songs "The Queen Is Dead", "Panic", and "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out" (1986)
- The "Panic" sequence from The Queen Is Dead was edited to form the video for that single (1986)
- "Ask" (1986)
- Matt Fretton: "Avatar" (1986)
- Pet Shop Boys: "It's a Sin", "Rent", and "Projections".
- Pet Shop Boys: "King's Cross"