She was born in Rome as Francesca Romana Rivelli, to a Neapolitan father and Estonian mother Ilse Renata Krause. Her maternal grandparents immigrated from Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg), Russia, to Estonia. She has an older sister, Claudia (born 1951).
Muti modeled as a teenager and made her film debut in 1970 in La moglie più bella (aka The Most Beautiful Wife).
She has primarily worked in Italian films but she made her English-speaking film debut as Princess Aura in Flash Gordon in 1980. American movies she appeared in include Oscar (1991) andOnce Upon a Crime (1992). She is mostly known to the French for appearing in a television commercial of Giovanni Panzani pasta.
Muti was voted "The Most Beautiful Woman in the World" in 1994 by a worldwide poll of readers of the magazine Class.
In 2008, Muti introduced her own line of jewellery. She opened new shops in Paris, Milan, Rome, Riga, Moscow and Almaty.
She insured her breasts for $350,000.
Muti has three children: Naike Rivelli (born 1974), who is also a model, singer (under the name Nayked) and actress having a close resemblance to her mother, and whose father is Spanish film producer José Luis Bermúdez de Castro Acaso; a son, Andrea, and a second daughter, Carolina, both from her marriage to Facchinetti.
From 1998 to 2008, Muti lived with Stefano Piccolo, a plastic surgeon.
- La moglie più bella (The Most Beautiful Wife, 1970)
- Il Sole nella pelle (1971, also known as Summer Affair, Sun on the Skin)
- Le Monache di Sant'Arcangelo (1973, also known as Sisters of Satan, The Nuns of Saint Archangel, The Nun and the Devil)
- Romanzo popolare (1974, also known as Come Home and Meet My Wife)
- The Sensual Man (1974)
- Appassionata (1974, also known as Passionate)
- Leonor (1975)
- Pure as a Lily (1976)
- La Dernière femme (1976, also known as The Last Woman, L'Ultima donna)
- La stanza del vescovo, (1977, also known as The Bishop’s Room)
- Mort d'un pourri (1977, also known as Death of a Corrupt Man, The Twisted Detective)
- I nuovi mostri (1977)
- Neapolitan Mystery (1978)
- Primo amore (1978)
- Ritratto di borghesia in nero (1978, also known as Nest of Vipers, Portrait of a Bourgeois in Black)
- La Vita è bella (Life is Beautiful, 1979)
- Flash Gordon (1980)
- Il Bisbetico Domato (1980)
- Nessuno è perfetto (1981)
- Innamorato pazzo (Madly in Love, 1981)
- Storie di ordinaria follia (Tales of Ordinary Madness, 1981)
- Love and Money (1982)
- La Ragazza di Trieste (The Girl from Trieste, 1983)
- Il futuro è donna (The Future Is Woman, 1984)
- Un amour de Swann (1984, also known as Eine Liebe von Swann, Swann in Love)
- Io e mia sorella (Me and My Sister, 1987)
- Casanova (1987)
- Cronaca di una morte annunciata (Chronicle of a Death Foretold, 1987)
- O Re (The King of Naples) (1989)
- Codice privato (1989)
- Wait Until Spring, Bandini (1989)
- Il Viaggio di Capitan Fracassa (1990, English titles: Captain Fracassa's Journey, The Voyage of Captain Fracassa)
- Oscar (1991)
- Once Upon a Crime (1992)
- El Amante Bilingüe (1993)
- Mi fai un favore (1996, US title: Stella's Favor)
- Compromesso d'amore (1995, Spanish title: Tatiana, la muñeca rusa, US title: Love Deal)
- Pour rire! (1996)
- Somewhere in the City (1998)
- The Count of Monte Cristo (1998, miniseries)
- The Unscarred (1999), co-starred with daughter Naike Rivelli
- Dirty Linen (1999)
- Tierra del fuego (2000)
- Domani (2001, English title: Tomorrow)
- Il figlio prediletto (2001 Brazil, Portuguese title: Um Crime Nobre)
- Last Run (2002)
- Cavale (2002, also known as Trilogy: One, On the Run, One)
- Un couple épatant (2002, also known as Trilogy: Two, An Amazing Couple, Two)
- Après la vie (2002) (also known as Trilogy: Three, After the Life, Three)
- Hotel (2003)
- On the Run: Trilogy 1 (2004)
- An Amazing Couple: Trilogy 2 (2004)
- After the Life: Trilogy 3 (2004)
- The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things (2004)
- Doc West (2009)
- To Rome with Love (2012)