- Wrote for the Yorkshire Evening Post newspaper in the late 1960s and early '70s.
- Co-founded Dire Straits, along with his guitarist brother, David, in 1977; the band released its self-titled debut the following year.
- First solo album, Local Hero, doubled as a soundtrack for the 1983 film of the same name.
- Commercial peak came with Dire Straits' Brothers in Arms (1985), which sold several million copies on the strength of hits "Money for Nothing" and "So Far Away."
- Officially disbanded Dire Straits in 1995, following the poor reception of the group's On Every Street (1991) and subsequent tour.
- Named an Officer of the British Empire in 2000.
- A group of paleontologists, inspired by the music of Dire Straits, named a newly discovered dinosaur species Masiakasaurus knopfleri in 2001.
- Ranked No. 27 on Rolling Stone's list of the 100 Greatest Guitarist of All Time in 2003.