From 1977 to 1983, he worked as an assistant director for France’s state television production company, Société française de production (S. F. P). Subsequently, he worked for broadcasters TF1 and Antenne 2. He formed a production company called 3B with his associate Jean Bréhat in 1988.
Bouchareb began making short films in the 1980s. His featured film debut came in 1985 with Bâton Rouge. Since then his acclaimed films have included Poussières de vie (Dust of Life) (which received an Academy Award nomination in 1995 for Best Foreign Language Film in 1995); Little Senegal in 2001, as well as Two Men in Town in 2014 were both shown in the competition at the Berlin Film Festival; and Days of Glory, which received the Best Foreign Language Film nomination in 2006 and also won prizes at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival. Bouchareb's films have a following amongst international cineastes.
His film, Hors-la-loi, competed for the Palme d'Or at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival in May. It was the Algerian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 83rd Academy Awards and was one of the five final nominees.