He was born in Kollam to Gnanalekshmi and Gopinathan Pillai. Suresh Gopi did his schooling at the Infant Jesus Anglo-Indian High School at Tangasseri, Kollam. He graduated in English and Literature from Fatima Mata National College, Kollam. He is married to Radhika, and has four kids: Bharath, Chandran, Minnal, and Prathapan. His three brothers include Subhash Gopi, Sunil Gopi, and Sanal Gopinath.
Suresh Gopi first came on screen as a child in K. S. Sethumadhavan's Odeyil Ninnu (1965). It was a popular film during the 1960s which had Sathyan in the lead role along with Prem Nazir.
He came back into acting during the mid-80s in Sathyan Anthikkad's T.P. Balagopalan M.A. (1986), where he played a prospective groom in a small scene. He was noted for his acting prowess and went on to play supporting and villain roles. Some interesting roles of his include Balan in Nandi Veendum Varika (1986), Vinod in January Oru Orma (1987), Shekaran Kutty in Irupatham Noottandu (1987), Suresh in Joshi's New Delhi (1987), Harry in Oru CBI Diary Kurippu (1988), Unni in Nineteen Twenty One (1988), and Aromal Chekavar in Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha (1989). He played the comic role of Inspector "Minnal" Prathapan in Manu Uncle (1988) and of Dr. Narendran in Padmarajan's Innale (1989).
He played Sethumadhavan in Siddique-Lal's blockbuster In Harihar Nagar (1990). Another interesting role was of Christopher Luke in Viji Thampy's Nagarangalil Chennu Raparkam (1990). The film that helped him get noticed as a serious police officer was the satirical comedy Aanavaal Mothiram (1990), where he played Sub-Inspector Nandakumar and co-starred with Sreenivasan.
The films that made Suresh Gopi a bankable lead actor were Thalastanam (1992), Ekalavyan (1993), and Commissioner (1994), all by Shaji Kailas and scripted by Renji Panicker. All of them were police dramas and had, more or less, similar themes. He became immensely popular with his role as Bharathchandran IPS in the block-buster movie Commissioner. Renji Panicker's dialogues employed by Suresh Gopi in English became quite popular with the masses.
During this period, most of his films were dubbed and simultaneously released in Telugu, which made him a sensation in Andhra Pradesh.
During the early to mid 90s, he also played characters of substance in films such as Jayaraj's Paithrukam (1993), Fazil's Manichithrathazhu (1993), Sathyan Anthikkad's Samooham (1993) and Sibi Malayil's Sindoora Rekha (1995). Fazil's Manichithrathazhu turned out to be a blockbuster and established Suresh Gopi as a prominent actor in Malayalam cinema.
The success of his cop roles lead to more films of such nature, where he either played police officers or other tough characters. With films such as City Police (1993), Mafia (1993), The City (1994), Rudraksham (1994), Kashmeeram (1994), and Mahatma (1996).
In 1997, with Jayaraj's Kaliyattam (1997), an adaptation of Shakespeare's Othello, Suresh Gopi won the National Film Award for Best Actor for playing Kannan Perumalayan. He proved he was more than just another mainstream actor. This certainly was a turning point in his career.
In the late 90s, Suresh Gopi was noted for playing in Joshi's films such as 'Lelam' and 'Pathram', again, scripted by Renji Panicker.He played Nasrani character Chackochi in 'Lelam'(1998). He played Nandagopal in Pathram (1999) where he co-starred with Manju Warrier. Suresh Gopi, Jayaram, and Manju Warrier teamed up in Sibi Malayil's Summer in Bethlahem (1998) which was a commercial success.
After 2000, when his films were doing fairly good in box office, he decided to stop acting in movies depicting violence. It was rumored that he was giving up his acting career for pursuing a political career. But he acted in off-beat movies and accepted only soft roles in the period 2001-05. In 2005, realizing his mistake, he decided to make a comeback in action movies. Ranji Panikkar, script writer of his most successful movie Commissioner, directed the sequel Bharath Chandran IPS portraying him as the angry police commissioner. The movie was a super hit and was followed by a number of movies in which he played the typical police officer and detective. While some of them like Tiger, Chinthamani Kolakkase directed by Shaji Kailas, Naadiya Kollappetta Rathri directed by K.Madhu and Detective were successful, a few of them like Time, Aayudham, Thavalam, Rashtram, Pathaka, Bullet and Smart City were flops. He performed well in a very different role in Lanka which, however, went unnoticed among the crowd of movies. Time was a highly expected movie, but failed to collect well in the Box Office. It was dubbed into Telugu as 'Police Ante Veedera' and Hindi as 'On Duty', but failed to fetch better results.
Before coming to the film-world, he had displayed great interest in the filed of literature, and his favourite authors are Bernard Shaw and Shakespeare. He is famous for his philanthropic efforts. He has done many charity activities in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Gulf, etc. Once he gave up the chance of standing as a candiadte for the election with a Congress Party ticket. His charity activities are spearheaded by his fans club, which has a strength of about 800 members. He frequently visits Sree Chitra Poorhome, Trivandrum and spends time with its hapless inmates.
In 2008, Suresh Gopi along with the other Superstars of Malayalam gave a stunning performance in Twenty: 20 produced by AMMA. Again, he acted with Mohanlal in Pakal Nakshathrangal, an off-beat movie directed by Rajiv Nath.