Hoppe was born as son of a master baker in Ellrich, Thuringia, Germany. After his apprenticehip as a baker, he worked from 1945 to 1948, as a coachman. He then started an actors’ training in Erfurt and worked in the circus Aeros. He later engaged at Thalia Theater in Halle (Saale) and at the Young World Theatre in Leipzig. He acted at the Staatsschauspiel Dresden, the Deutsches Theater in Berlin, and the Salzburg Festival. He was internationally active in Switzerland, Italy, and China.
In the East German DEFA movies, Hoppe often played villains, e.g., in different Osterns. One of his most notable roles was that of the Tábornagy in Mephisto, which was awarded the 1981 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
- 2010: Hoppe spricht Schöne Frühlingslieder
- 1971: National Prize of East Germany 1. class for art and literature
- 1981: Critics Award of the Hungarian Journalist. Association for his role in Mephisto
- 1995: Lessing Award of the Free State of Saxony
- 1998: Grimme-Preis for his role in the TV miniseries Sardsch
- 2005: Goldene Henne for his lifetime achievement
- 2007: Art Award, City of Dresden
- 2010: Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, 1st Class
- Eberhard Görner: Der Schauspieler Rolf Hoppe. Henschel, 1996, ISBN 3894872535
- Rolf Hoppe at the Internet Movie Database
- Rolf Hoppe at dreihaselnuessefueraschenbroedel.de (German)
- Rolf Hoppe at DEFA-Sternstunden (German)
- Rolf Hoppe at film-zeit.de (German)
- Frühlingslieder auf Frühlingslieder.com (abgerufen am 19. Juni 2010)