Bates starred in many movies, including: Zorba the Greek, Georgy Girl, Far from the Madding Crowd, The Fixer, The Go-Between, Women in Love, An Unmarried Woman and The Rose. He also acted on stage and television.
Bates was a closeted bisexual. He was married to actress Victoria Ward (1939-1992) from 1970 until her death. They had twin sons: Tristan (1971-1990) and actor Benedick Bates (born 1971). Bates died of pancreatic cancer in London.