She made her film debut in the comedy Dude, Where's My Car (2000).
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Following a four-year marriage to Scott Foley, Garner married actor Ben Affleck in 2005, with whom she has three children. and her father, William John "Bill" Garner, worked as a chemical engineer.
When she was four years old, her father's job with Union Carbide moved her family to Princeton, West Virginia; Calgary, Alberta; and then Charleston, West Virginia, where Garner lived until her college years.
In the fall of 1993, she studied at the National Theater Institute at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Connecticut. The more I learned what there was to learn about this field, the more hungry I became for it.
Garner says she did not plan on becoming an actress: "I wanted to be a doctor, a librarian. It comes out of wanting to learn more, as opposed to 'I want to be a star.' I never felt that way," she said.
Garner has appeared in supporting as well as lead film roles including the superhero films Daredevil (2003) and Elektra (2005), the comedy-drama Juno (2007), and the fantasy romantic comedy The Invention of Lying (2009).
In the 2010s, she appeared in the fantasy comedy-drama film The Odd Life of Timothy Green (2012), the biographical drama Dallas Buyers Club (2013), and the comedy Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (2014).
Garner works frequently as an activist for education and has worked closely as a board member of Save the Children, and she has been an ambassador of the organization since the late 2000s.
She is also an advocate for anti-paparazzi campaigns among celebrity children.
She was then cast in her first television role as part of a made-for-television movie Zoya, based on the Danielle Steel novel.
In the late 1990s, she made brief appearances in individual episodes of Spin City and Law & Order while also securing roles in two short-lived television series, Significant Others and Time of Your Life.
During her time on Spin City she met Stephen Colbert and became an occasional babysitter for his kids.