Sharp was educated at Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School, Blackburn and Hatfield College, Durham University where he gained an honours degree in Psychology and Modern Philosophy in 1968. During the seventies, he worked at the BBC making documentaries first for the General Features Department and then for Music and Arts, especially Arena and Omnibus. In 1978 the BBC gave him 3 months sabbatical to make a movie called The Music Machine, and it was this experience that led him to turn towards drama.
His first break came in 1980 with the ITV comedy drama series Minder. That was quickly followed by The Professionals, and he made a total of 6 episodes for those two series. Shortly after that, he directed his first full feature movie, Who Dares Wins (1982), for producer Euan Lloyd. Next came the first six episodes of Robin of Sherwood for ITV, and the ensuing few years consisted of mainly television work until Robert Zemeckis asked him to direct the second unit on Who Framed Roger Rabbit starring Bob Hoskins.
He speaks fluent French and German and lives in Oxfordshire with his wife, the broadcaster and author Sue Cook.
- Tracker 2010 film with Ray Winstone
- Mrs Caldicot's Cabbage War - Evolution Films
- Tess of the d'Urbervilles - LWT/Granada
- GoldenEye – 2nd unit
- Pleasure - Channel 4 / Alan Bleasdale
- Secret Weapon - Turner Cable/TVS/ABC Australia
- Frederick Forsyth Presents
- Pursuit - NBC Columbia 
- Codename: Kyril - HTV / Showtime Cable
- Who Framed Roger Rabbit - Touchstone / Disney
- Yesterday's Dreams - Central TV
- The Corsican Brothers - CBS
- Robin of Sherwood - Goldcrest, directed all of Series 1
- Who Dares Wins - Rank
- Minder - "You Need Hands" & "All Mod Cons" - ITV1
- The Professionals - ITV1
- The Music Machine - a Target International Pictures release
- "Director of Film, Television and Commercials. James Bond GoldenEye, Mrs Caldicot's Cabbage Wars, Who Framed Roger Rabbit". Ian Sharp. Retrieved 2012-09-27.
- Lamb, Larry (3 March 2011). Mummy's Boy: My Autography. Coronet. p. 39. ISBN 978-1444715279. Retrieved 22 April 2016.