Batalov studied acting at the Moscow Art Theater School, then performed with the Soviet Army Theater (1950-53) and with the Moscow Art Theater (1953-56). He began his film career after being discovered by director Josef Heifitz, who gave him a leading role in The Big Family (1954); Batalov went on to appear in several other Heifitz productions. With his honest, straightforward face and naive smile, he personified the Soviet-youth "ideal" in many films. In the '60s he directed two of the films in which he starred, The Overcoat (1960) and Three Fat Men (1966). He is a nephew of actor Nikolai Batalov.