Bleibtreu grew up in Hamburg. His first appearance on TV was in the late seventies on a children's television series called Neues aus Uhlenbusch, written by his mother Monica and Rainer Boldt. This was followed by a role in Boldt's Ich hatte einen Traum and alongside his mother in the miniseries Mit meinen heißen Tränen (de). After he left school when he was 16, he lived in Paris and New York City where he attended acting school. In 1992 he began his acting career at the Schauspielhaus in Hamburg. He also had numerous small parts in television productions.