He graduated from gymnasium in 1917 and entered the Moscow College for Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. From 1918 - 1921, he served in the Red Army during the Russian civil war, first as a signalman and later rising to the rank of inspector of a Special Commission concerning the numbers of the Red Army and Fleet of the Field Staff of the Supreme Military Soviet of the Republic. As such he travelled a lot and had the opportunity to see much of the life in different parts of the country, something that he later said he "recalled with gratitude".
After the end of his military career, Romm received a scholarship from the Soviet government. In 1925 he graduated as a sculptor from the class of Anna Golubkina of the Highest Artistic-Technical Institute and worked as a sculptor and translator. In 1928-1930 he conducted research on the theory of cinema in the Institute for the methods of extra-scholastic work (Institut metodov vneshkol'noy raboty). Since 1931 he worked at the Mosfilm studio. In 1940-1943 he was an artistic leader for the Mosfilm films production. In 1942-1947 he was the director of a theater studio for movie actors. From 1938 he was a lecturer, from 1948 he was the leader of the actor's-producer department of the VGIK, professor (from 1962). He influenced many prominent film-directors, including Andrei Tarkovsky, Grigori Chukhrai, Vasily Shukshin, Nikita Mikhalkov, Georgi Daneliya, Aleksander Mitta, Igor Talankin, Rezo Chkheidze, Gleb Panfilov, Vladimir Basov, Tengiz Abuladze, Elem Klimov and many others.
Dream (Mechta) (1941) starring Faina Ranevskaya and other famous actors is considered one of the high points of Romm’s career. The film reveals deep spiritual crises, material and spiritual misery of inhabitants of a hostel titled Dream (Mechta). President Roosevelt said it was one of the greatest films in the world.
Another prominent film of Romm's was about young nuclear physicists; Nine Days of One Year (1962). The documentary Ordinary Fascism, (aka A Night of Thoughts) (1965) about the Third Reich gained over forty million viewers. No other historic documentary won such a numerous audience.
He wrote many books and articles on the theory of cinematographic art, and also memoirs. He was awarded the Stalin Prize 5 times (1941, 1946, 1948, 1949, 1951). Romm was an honorary corresponding member of the Academy of the skills of DDR (1967).
He died in Moscow in 1971.
Member, Communist Party, since 1939.