Born in Kuala Lumpur, Claudia Wells grew up in San Francisco, California, and moved to Los Angeles at the age of 14. She later graduated from Beverly Hills High School.
She started acting with appearances in TV shows.
Wells played Jennifer Parker, Marty McFly’s girlfriend, in the 1985 film Back to the Future. She almost did not end up in the first film of the successful franchise. According to Wells, she had been cast, but a pilot she had done for ABC had been picked up, and she was contractually forced to drop out of Back to the Future. During that time, Eric Stoltz had been shooting for five weeks in the role of Marty McFly. Melora Hardin was slated for the role of Jennifer, though she never actually filmed any scenes. The producers halted filming and replaced Stoltz with Michael J. Fox. By then, Wells’ pilot had been finished and she was recast as Jennifer, now shooting alongside Fox, never having filmed a frame with Stoltz.
That same year (1985), Wells co-starred in Stop the Madness, an anti-drug music video sponsored by the Reagan administration, featuring several famous musicians, actors and athletes. The following year, she appeared in the TV movie Babies Having Babies, and the short-lived series Fast Times, a TV adaptation of the 1982 film Fast Times at Ridgemont High (Wells played Linda Barrett, portrayed by Phoebe Cates in the film). Following Fast Times, she did not again appear on-screen until the 1996 independent film Still Waters Burn (released on DVD February 12, 2008).