Gonzalez and Fromageau parted ways shortly after touring for their second album Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts, with Gonzalez now recording primarily on his own, often with the help of his brother Yann Gonzalez, vocalist and keyboardist Morgan Kibby, and drummer Loïc Maurin. In 2011, Gonzalez posted an open audition on the M83 website for a multi-instrumentalist who could join the band. Nineteen-year-old Jordan Lawlor won the audition. Fromageau formed a new band in 2009 called Team Ghost and has released two albums to date.
Gonzalez first developed an interest in music while in high school. Together with Fromageau he formed a post-rock outfit called My Violent Wish. At the age of 17, Gonzalez bought a synth to record a demo, which he sent to a number of French labels. When Gooom Records appeared interested, he recruited Fromageau to "help me because I didn't feel like I had the shoulders to carry the project on my own". The band is named after the galaxy of the same name.
In spring 2001, M83 released its self-titled debut album. The release did not attract much attention outside Europe until September 2005, when Mute Records reissued the album for a worldwide release. M83's second album Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts followed in spring 2003 (and summer 2004 in North America) to widespread critical acclaim. After worldwide touring for Dead Cities resumed, Nicolas Fromageau left the band. Gonzalez returned to the studio to record the group's third studio album, Before the Dawn Heals Us, which was released in January 2005. The same year, M83 provided a remix of "The Pioneers" by Bloc Party, which was also included on Bloc Party's remix album Silent Alarm Remixed. M83 also remixed Placebo's "Protège-Moi", Goldfrapp's "Black Cherry", Depeche Mode's "Suffer Well", Van She's "Kelly", and The Bumblebeez's "Vila Attack". Similarly, M83's songs have been remixed by Gooom labelmates Montag and Cyann & Ben.
In 2006, after the Before the Dawn Heals Us US tour, Anthony Gonzalez continued to explore a musical direction already heard on earlier M83 tracks and began writing and recording a collection of ambient works. The album was recorded primarily at his home studio with the assistance of Antoine Gaillet. The resulting project was called Digital Shades Vol. 1, and was released in September 2007 with a sleeve illustrated by Laurent Fetis (known for his work with DJ Hell, Beck, and Tahiti 80). It is intended to be part of an ongoing series of ambient works.
Saturdays = Youth, M83's fifth studio album, was released in April 2008. It was recorded with Ken Thomas (known for his work with Sigur Rós, The Sugarcubes, Boys in a Band, Cocteau Twins, and Suede), Ewan Pearson (who has also produced for Tracey Thorn, The Rapture and Ladytron) and Morgan Kibby (of The Romanovs). The album features a more focused approach to song structure and form, and Gonzalez stated that the main influence of the album came from music of the 1980s: "I think that '80s music is such a brilliant period for music history. It was the occasion for me to do a tribute to this '80s music, but [it was] also a tribute to my teenage years because the main theme of the album is being a teenager, and being a teenager means a lot to me." Four singles were released from the album: "Couleurs" in February 2008, "Graveyard Girl" in April, "Kim & Jessie" in July, and "We Own the Sky" in December. Redbull and Snowboarder Travis Rice used "We Own the Sky" as the opening song in the 2008 snowboard film "That's It That's All". M83 also appeared on a limited edition split 7" single with Maps in 2008; M83 remixed Maps' "To the Sky", while Maps provided a remix of M83's "We Own the Sky".
In December 2008, M83 supported Kings of Leon on its UK tour. In January and February 2009, M83 supported The Killers across United States tour dates and toured with Depeche Mode on its Tour of the Universe in Italy, Germany, and France. In July, M83 appeared at the Fuji Rock Festival in Japan. In July 2009, M83 appeared at the Wexner Center in Columbus, Ohio, when there was an altercation between Gonzalez and a security guard, the band later apologized to its fans for the incident. In the course of the same year, Gonzalez moved to Los Angeles.
In Spring 2010, M83 composed the score of French director Gilles Marchand's film Black Heaven. On 5 July 2010, the Black Heaven Soundtrack was released, which included two new songs by M83 called "Black Hole" and "Marion's Theme", along with five tracks from his back catalog. The soundtrack also includes songs from the score by Emmanuel D'Orlando, Moon Dailly and John & Jehn. However, his feelings towards the record were largely negative, leaving him depressed.
In 2011, Gonzalez started working on a new batch of songs for an album slated for release later in the year. He described the tracks as darker and "very, very, very epic". Speaking with Spin, he said of the new album "It's a double album. It's mainly about dreams, how every one is different, how you dream differently when you're a kid, a teenager, or an adult. I'm really proud of it. If you're doing a very long album, all the songs need to be different and I think I've done that with this one." He plans on recording again with Morgan Kibby as well as others, including Medicine's mastermind Brad Laner, Nine Inch Nails bassist Justin Meldal-Johnsen and Zola Jesus.
Hurry Up, We're Dreaming is Gonzalez's first double album, something he had dreamed of making ever since hearing The Smashing Pumpkins' Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. "I wanted to make a very eclectic album but also something not too long. Making a double album was a dream of mine for a long, long time and I felt ready to make this move," he explains. Discussing the sound and process of creating this album, Gonzalez says it was "written like a soundtrack to an imaginary movie with different ambiances, different atmospheres, different tempos, different orchestrations and different instrumentation.... When I make an album it's always about nostalgia, melancholy in the past and memories."
On 19 July 2011, the breakthrough single "Midnight City", the first from Hurry Up, We're Dreaming, was released for streaming and free download on the band's official website. Beginning in October, they toured North America and Europe to promote the album; Active Child supported the US leg of the tour. The album placed 3rd in Pitchfork's Top 50 Albums of 2011 list; the single "Midnight City" was placed 1st on the Top 100 Tracks list. On 26 January 2012, M83 came in at number 5 on the Triple J Hottest 100 with the single "Midnight City". The track received further exposure in 2013 as the remixed soundtrack to the Gucci Premier fragrance television advert featuring Blake Lively.
On 28 June 2012, it was announced that M83 would compose the soundtrack for the 2013 movie Oblivion, directed by Joseph Kosinski and starring Tom Cruise. The score was co-written with Joseph Trapanese. The soundtrack album was released on 9 April 2013 by Back Lot Music. On 26 February 2014, a new single titled "I Need You" was released off the Divergent soundtrack. The song "Wait" was featured in the 2014 film The Fault In Our Stars. It was also featured on the "Perception" episode of Revenge in 2012, "The Backup Dan" episode of Gossip Girl in 2012, "Imperfect Circles" episode of Under the Dome in 2013 and "The World Has Turned and Left Me Here" episode of The Vampire Diaries in 2014.
In August 2014, the first three albums produced by the band were re-released by Mute Records with additional material. On 2 March 2015, M83, with indie pop group Haim, released the song "Holes in the Sky" from The Divergent Series: Insurgent soundtrack.