Hiam Abbas began her career acting in Palestinian theater groups before taking film roles with directors such as Rashid Masharawi and Michel Khleifi.
She is known for her roles in the films Satin Rouge, Paradise Now(2005), The Syrian Bride (2004), and Free Zone (2005). She had a small role in Steven Spielberg's Munich, a film depicting the response to the Munich Massacre, where she also served as a dialect and acting consultant. Additionally, she directed two short films, Le Pain (2001), and Le Danse éternelle (2004).
She became famous in the international film scene through the film Satin Rouge (2002), by Raja Amari, a film about the self-discovery of a middle aged Tunisian widow with her own desires and sexuality. She also played a similar role in The Syrian Bride, about a caged Druze woman eager to break out all sorts of barriers, performing a perfectly delivered and subtle performance with an inner struggle, which confronted today's religious and social dogmas and restrains.
She played the mother of an illegal Syrian immigrant son in Tom McCarthy's 2008 movie The Visitor.