Makavejev was a psychology graduate at Belgrade University who went on to study film.
Makavejev made experimental films and series of documentaries before getting into features.
Makavejev's first three feature films, Man Is Not a Bird (1965), Love Affair, or the Case of the Missing Switchboard Operator (1967) and Innocence Unprotected (1968) were very popular.
In 1970 Makavejev was a member of the jury at the 20th Berlin International Film Festival.
His 1971 film W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism was banned in Yugoslavia due to its sexual and political content.
Makavejev's next film, Sweet Movie (1974), was the first feature work that the director produced entirely outside of Yugoslavia, the film was made in Canada.
In 1991 he was a member of the jury at the 17th Moscow International Film Festival.
Two years later Makavejev wrote and appeared in a half hour televised Opinions lecture in Britain. He speaks of himself as a citizen of the world but “of the leftovers of Yugoslavia too”.
Makavejev appears as one of the narrators in the 2007 Serbian documentary film Zabranjeni bez zabrane (Banned without being banned). It contains original interviews with key filmmakers from the communist era.
Quotations: Creators of nationalist myths, both Serbs and Croats, came from the same mountainous region that was probably the source of this Hollywood story. Before the armed conflict, these people were whipping up nationalist fever and indoctrination until conflict became inevitable and both nations were trapped in a bloody embrace...How long will it take for an ethnically “clean” state for every single person who miraculously stays alive? A state for each family, a state for the father in case he is a Croat, a state for the mother in case she is a Muslim, a state for the daughter in case she is a Yugoslav, a state for the son in case he is a Serb, a specific flag for the dog, a currency for the cat.”
Makavejev married Bojana Marijan in 1964.