Wortmann’s father was a miner. After Wortmann's A-Levels he wanted to become a professional football player and started playing with Westfalia Herne and later SpVgg Erkenschwick in the German 3rd division. After three years he gave up the idea of becoming a professional football player.
One semester he studied sociology before entering the academy for TV and film in Munich to study film directing. After spending some time at the London Royal College of Art he finished his career successfully. While studying, he worked as a taxi driver and actor, for example in the TV series A Happy Family, from the channel Bayerischer Rundfunk. His debut feature film Der bewegte Mann was released in 1994. It became one of the most successful German film of the post-war era.
Das Superweib was filmed, as he himself said, to prove that it is possible to make "a successful film out of a successful novel". Der Campus was more or less accomplished on the same terms, but achieved fewer viewers. Films like Mr. Bluesman and the drama film in episodes St Pauli Nacht, for which he was acclaimed by critics, turned out to be commercial failures and didn’t run a long time in cinemas. Wortmann shot Der Himmel von Hollywood (The Hollywood Sign), based on Leon de Winter’s the world bestseller, in the USA with a very good cast. Der Himmel von Hollywood came out in 2004 in Germany, but didn’t run long in cinemas. Wortmann sees The Miracle of Bern as his greatest success, which became the most successful film in German cinemas in the year 2003.
During the Confederations Cup 2005 and the Football World Cup 2006 he joined the German football team on their trip. At every match he sat on the trainer’s bank and, by order and for account of national team manager Jürgen Klinsmann, he prepared films which were later shown to the players in order to prepare them for an upcoming match. The two-hour documentary film on the world cup, produced from over 100 hours of filming material, was presented to the German national football team on the 14th of August 2006 as a preview and premiered in cinemas on the 5th of December 2006 under the title Deutschland. Ein Sommermärchen. The film had more than 4 million viewers and was a big success. The net profits of the film were donated to SOS-Children’s Villages.
In 1998 Wortmann founded his own production company Little Shark Entertainment GmbH.
From 2007 he worked on the project to adapt Pope Joan (novel). The production was carried out by Bernd Eichinger. Initially, the female pope Johanna was going to be portrayed by Franka Potente. In Mai 2008 though, the production company announced that Johanna Wokalek was going to play the pope. The production was also conducted under Oliver Berben. In the year 2009, the film was released in cinemas.
Sönke Wortmann is married to the actress Cecilia Kunz and has three children.
Wortmann is an active member of the German authors national football team (Autonama). Wortmann also supports “DeinFussballClub” since April 2008. This club’s aim is to engage over 30,000 new members every year, who pay 39.95 euros each every year. The foundation of this club was modeled after the English club Ebbsfleet United.
Sönke Wortmann is also member of Alliance '90/The Greens.
- 1985 - Special award at the Royal College of Art in London for Nachtfahrer (Night driver)
- 1988 – Kodak-Eastmann award for Drei D (Three D)
- 1988 – Nomination for the Oscar category of student film for Drei D
- 1988 – Filmband in gold for Noblesse oblige
- 1991 – promotional award from the Hypo-Bank for the Munich Film Festival for Allein unter Frauen
- 1991 – German video award for Allein unter Frauen
- 1992 - Filmband in gold for Kleine Haie
- 1992 - Award (Best young director) at the World Film Festival for Kleine Haie
- 1992 - Award (Best film) at the film festival in Quebec for Kleine Haie
- 1994 – DIVA award
- 1994 – Bambi award for Der bewegte Mann
- 1995 – German film award, nomination (film, director) for Der bewegte Mann
- 1995 – Ernst –Lubitsch award for Der bewegte Mann
- 1998 – Bavarian film award for Der Campus
- 2003 – Bavarian film award for The miracle of Bern
- 2004 – Landesmedien award from North Rhine-Westphalia for The miracle of Bern
- 2006 – Bambi for the category “Documentary” for Deutschland. Ein Sommermärchen
- 2007 – Adolf-Grimme award for the category “information and culture” for Germany for Deutschland. Ein Sommermärchen
- 2007 – Merrit award from North Rhine-Westphalia
- 2009 – culture award from the Sparkasse culture-foundation Rhine-Westphalia
- 2010 – Askania Award
As a director
- 1981 Nachtfahrer
- 1984 Anderthalb
- 1986 Fotofinish
- 1988 Hochzeit des Figaro
- 1988 Drei D
- 1990 Eine Wahnsinnsehe (TV film)
- 1991 Allein unter Frauen (Alone Among Women)
- 1992 Kleine Haie (Acting It Out)
- 1993 Mr. Bluesman
- 1994 Der Bewegte Mann (Maybe, Maybe Not) (1994)
- 1996 Charleys Tante (Charleys aunt)
- 1996 Das Superweib (The Superwife)
- 1998 Der Campus (Campus)
- 1999 St. Pauli Nacht (1999)
- 2001 Der Himmel von Hollywood (The Hollywood Sign)
- 2003 Das Wunder von Bern (The Miracle of Bern)
- 2006 Freunde für immer TV series for Sat.1
- 2006 Deutschland. Ein Sommermärchen (Germany. A summer fairy tale)
- 2009 Die Päpstin (Pope Joan)
As a producer
- Lammbock (2001)
- Arnies Welt (2005)
- Hardcover (2008)
- Hangtime (2009)
As an actor
- 1987 - 1991 Die glückliche Familie (as Ritchie)
- 1997 Knocking on Heaven's Door
- For Nike, Gerolsteiner, Bitburger, Sony, Air Berlin, Deutsche Bank, Prinzenrolle, Nivea, DFB, König Pilsener, Früh Kölsch
- Vodafone, Honda, Dresdner Bank, SolarWorld AG, Commerzbank AG
- HanseMerkur Versicherung, starring Mario Gómez (August 2007)
- AachenMünchener, starring Mario Adorf,
- Rewe Group 2010, starring Lukas Podolski
- Deutsche Bahn AG, in which he himself appears.
- Deutschland. Ein Sommermärchen (2006) Diary of the World Cup
- Das Wunder von Bern, audiobook at Hörverlag, ISBN 3-89940-205-7