For his National Service commencing in 1956, he served in Fife at the Joint Services School for Linguists where he was taught Russian. and was posted to West Berlin to monitor the communications of Soviet pilots flying in and out of East Germany. "The experience I've come to realise since that it shaped my continuing obsession with what was going on in eastern Europe and particularly the Iron Curtain at that time."
As a young filmmaker, he was assigned to film a new rock 'n' roll band called The Beatles, playing at the Cavern Club in Liverpool. Woodhead first made his name as a reporter for Granada Television's flagship current affairs series World in Action. He remained with Granada for 28 years. Woodhead was among the first exponents of docudrama, a format which allowed him to explore daily life of those "behind the wall" during the Cold War, when journalists had little direct access. Among these were his films Invasion, about Soviet invasion and the Prague Spring of 1968, and Strike which deals with the rise of Solidarnosc in Poland. In 1999 his documentary film A Cry From The Grave, which documents, hour by hour, the atrocities of the Srebrenica massacre, won awards at four film festivals.
Since 1989, when he went freelance, Leslie Woodhead has made a number of films for BBC's Storyville and Arena series – among them My Life as a Spy, Star Wars Dreams (a history of the American missile defence program). He has also worked with the Sundance channel, making Godless in America, a documentary about the life of Madalyn Murray O'Hair who founded American Atheists, and successfully campaigned for the separation of church and state He was awardrd an OBE in the 1992 Birthday Honours and in 2006 he was nominated for an Emmy for his HBO documentary Children of Beslan about the Beslan school hostage crisis.
- 2012 The Hunt for Bin Laden (Writer/Director)
- 2011 9/11: The Day that Changed the World (Director/Producer) – Nominated for 2012 BAFTA
- 2009 How the Beatles Rocked the Kremlin (Director)
- 2006 Saving Jazz (Director)
- 2005 Children of Beslan (Director / Producer)
- 2004 The Russian Newspaper Murders (Executive Producer)
- 2003 Star Wars Dreams (Director / Producer)
- 2002 Media by Milosevic (Director)
- 2001 NOVA: Russia's Nuclear Warriors (Director / Producer / Screenwriter)
- 2000 Tony Bennett's New York (Director / Producer)
- 2000 NOVA: Holocaust on Trial (Director / Screenwriter)
- 1998 Endurance (Director)
- 1991 The Tragedy of Flight 103: The Inside Story (Director)