The youngest of two brothers and four sisters in an Irish Catholic family, O'Donnell began modeling at age thirteen. He continued as a model until age sixteen. At this time he began appearing in commercials. At age seventeen, he considered quitting modelling and acting, but was approached to audition for the film Men Don't Leave (1990). After some objection by young Chris, his mother convinced him to audition by offering to buy him a car if he was able to get the role. Men Don't Leave became his first movie role.
O'Donnell and his wife Caroline, an elementary school teacher, have a son named Chris Jr. He also acted for two months in New York City in Arthur Miller's The Man Who Had All the Luck. Recently, Chris was co-lead for the FOX show Head Cases, which was cancelled after two episodes.
- Head Cases (TV Series) (2005) ... as Jason Payne
- Kinsey (2004) ... as Wardell Pomeroy
- Vertical Limit (2000) ... as Peter Garrett
- The Bachelor (1999) ... as Jimmie Shannon
- Batman and Robin (1997) ... as Robin (Dick Grayson)
- In Love and War (1996) ... as Ernest Hemingway
- The Chamber (1996) ... as Adam Hall
- Batman Forever (1995) ... as Robin (Dick Grayson)
- Circle of Friends (1995) ... as Jack Foley
- The Three Musketeers (1993) ... as D'Artagnan
- Scent of a Woman (1992) ... as Charlie Simms
- School Ties (1992) ... as Chris Reece
- Fried Green Tomatoes (1991) ... as Buddy Threadgoode
- Men Don't Leave (1990) ... as Chris MacCauley