Lin initially wanted to be a singer and has already recorded demo tapes for a record company, but she was given numerous offers for modeling on television and print ads. She was hailed by FHM as "Asia's Sexiest Woman" in 2002, and has graced the cover of numerous fashion magazines in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and China. She has also appeared on copies of Marie Claire - French Edition (2005) and VOGUE Italia (2007).
Lin has been seen in various Hong Kong films and has worked with film directors such as Tsui Hark, Patrick Tam and, most frequently, Johnnie To. Lin has co-starred alongside Asian superstars, including Andy Lau, Stephen Chow and Ekin Cheng. With her success as an actress, she decided to drop her hopes of becoming a singer.
After a two-year hiatus from the film industry, Lin returned to acting with films such as Tokyo Trial and After This Our Exile for which she was nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the 2006 Hong Kong Film Awards.
In 2006, she worked with award-winning French director, Olivier Assayas, and shared film credits with Italian-born Hollywood actress, Asia Argento, in the film, Boarding Gate, which aired at the Midnight Screening of the 2007 Cannes Film Festival. She also co-starred in the three-part-segment film, Triangle, which was also shown at the festival, and in Mad Detective, which was a runner-up and a "surprise film" at the 64th Venice International Film Festival 2007.
Her newest film, Sparrow, directed by Johnnie To, which took three years to make, was nominated for the "Golden Bear" at the Berlin International Film Festival 2008. Lin seem to have wisely chosen her movie projects, making herself be involve in art films, and giving her opportunities to travel around the world attending various film festivals. She gained the reputation of "Film Festival Queen" in Chinese entertainment.
In 2008, Lin is the first artist to be signed up with Stellar Entertainment Ltd., owned and managed by international superstar Michelle Yeoh, international film producer Terence Chang. The new company aims to launch Asian artists for international stardom. But Kelly has set her goals to making only 2 films a year, dedicating more time for family and friends, and to be involved in charitable projects.She is one of the celebrity prime movers of BVLGARI "Rewrite The Future-Save The Children" campaign, alongside global celebrities like Isabella Rosellini, Lena Headey, Mischa Barton, Willem Dafoe and many others.Being a dog lover herself, she is also a staunch supporter of adopting stray puppies/dogs in Taiwan.
Lin's latest film is Wai Ka Fai's "Written By", co-starring alongside award-winning actor Sean Lau once again. The film opened the 2009 New York Asian Film Festival last June, and released in Hong Kong on July 10, 2009. Taking a break from her numerous serious art films, Kelly stars alongside Mainland's comedy King Ge You, in a dark comedy film called "Gasp", which also stars Hollywood actor John Savage, released in Mainland cinemas in August 2009; Dirt Rich In Shanghai is set to be released also in October 2009. In this romantic comedy film, her screen partner will be versatile Mainland actor Sun Honglei, and the film is produced by John Woo, Michelle Yeoh and Terence Chang and under the direction of Taipei-based film maker Peter Lee.
After making two comedy movies in a row, Kelly Lin appeared in the Wuxia movie Reign of Assassins with Michelle Yeoh and acclaimed Korean actor Jung Woo Sung. Production began in 2009 with release in 2010.
In March 28, 2011, Lin married Chinese-American businessman Chris Young in a low-key beach wedding in the Maldives. In August 31, she gave birth to their daughter named Kaitlin.