Carice van Houten's paternal grandmother was Scottish.
Van Houten was born on September 5, 1976, in Leiderdorp, Netherlands. Her mother, Margje Stasse, is on the board of Dutch educational TV, and her father, Theodore van Houten (1952–2016), was a writer and broadcaster. She was brought up watching silent films and in an interview, she professed to prefer playing scenes without dialogue. She has a younger sister, Jelka van Houten, who is also an actress.
Carice is named after the daughter of the English composer, Sir Edward Elgar, due to the fact that Carice's father was investigating the secret of "Elgars Enigma Variations".