Anwar first rose to prominence for co-writing Nia Dinata's 2003 hit Arisan! which won five awards at the 2004 Citra Award. He then made his feature film directorial debut with the romantic comedy Joni's Promise in 2005, gaining a Best Director nomination at the 2005 Citra Award. He has since directed a wide range of genres: the noir thriller Dead Time: Kala (2007), psychological thriller The Forbidden Door (2009), supernatural horror Satan's Slaves (2017), and live-action superhero Gundala (2019).
Anwar has won four Citra Awards out of 14 nominations for directing, screenwriting, and composing. He won the Best Director Award in 2015 for urban drama A Copy of My Mind and in 2020 for the critically acclaimed horror hit Impetigore as well as the Best Screenplay Award for co-writing Mouly Surya's 2008 Fiksi. and Best Original Song for "Kelam Malam" from Satan's Slaves in 2017, which he co-wrote with composer Tony Merle. He has also been nominated for a total of 7 Maya Awards, winning Best Director for Satan's Slaves in 2017.
As an actor, Anwar has appeared in multiple films, including starring roles in Edwin's award-winning feature film debut Blind Pig Who Wants to Fly opposite Ladya Cheryl.
In 2019, Indonesia Tatler includes Anwar in its list of the most influential film directors in modern Indonesian cinema.