He was born in London, England, the younger half-brother of actor and producer Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree. He was educated at Charterhouse School and Merton College, Oxford; it was at school that he began writing. Some of his work appeared in The Yellow Book (1894). He toured the United States while a young man, as a press agent for his brother's theatrical company.
His first solo publication, The Works of Max Beerbohm, was released in 1896. In 1898 he followed George Bernard Shaw as drama critic for the Saturday Review, where he remained on the staff until 1910. From 1935 onwards, he was a successful radio broadcaster.
His best known works are The Happy Hypocrite (1897) and The Christmas Garland (1912), a parody of literary styles. "Enoch Soames" (1919), the tale of a poet who makes a deal with the Devil to find out how posterity will remember him, is also well-known. In 1911 he wrote Zuleika Dobson, his only novel. In 2001, this novel would be named as one of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century by the editorial board of the American Modern Library.
Beerbohm married actress Florence Kahn in 1910. He was knighted in 1939. He died in Rapallo, Italy aged 83.