Coppola was born in Los Angeles County, California. His father, the late August Coppola, was a professor of literature, while his mother, Joy Vogelsang, is a Dancer and choreographer; the two divorced in 1976. His mother suffered from chronic depression. Coppola's mother is of German descent and his father is Italian American, with his paternal grandparents being Carmine Coppola and Italia Pennino, an Actress. Through his father, Coppola is the nephew of Director Francis Ford Coppola and Actress Talia Shire, as well as the cousin of Director Sofia Coppola, actor (and lead singer of his own band Rooney) Robert Schwartzman, and actor (and former Phantom Planet drummer) Jason Schwartzman. Coppola's two brothers are Marc Coppola and actor Nicolas Cage. He was featured on a Cats 101 episode on Animal Planet with his pet Burmese cat Otto.
Coppola studied music composition at the University of Redlands from 1979 to 1980; he also attended San Francisco Art Institute, earning a BS in Film/Cinema/Video Studies in 1985.
Coppola began filmmaking at an early age and has directed eight feature films and a number of television shows. He premiered his feature film Creature of the Sunnyside Up Trailer Park at the 2003 Toronto International Film Festival. His television show Biker Chef premiered at the 2004 Oldenburg Film Festival in Germany.
Coppola is the President of Christopher R. Coppola Productions (CRC Productions). In 2006, Coppola launched a digital film festival, PAH-FEST – "Project Accessible Hollywood" or "PAH" in New Mexico. In addition to New Mexico, Coppola has taken PAH-FEST across in the US, Germany and Slovenia. Coppola’s CRC Productions is also developing and producing content for alternative distribution and interactive platforms.
In April 2013 Coppola was appointed by Governor Jerry Brown to serve on the California Arts Council.