Randa Haines was born in Los Angeles and initially sought a career as an actress, studying with Lee Strasberg and acting in off-Broadway plays. During the 1970s, finding the production side more interesting, she found work as a script supervisor on several independent films, before attending the Directing Workshop for Women at the American Film Institute.
In 1979, she was able to helm her first project, the movie for television Under This Sky, about Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony in the women's suffrage movement. Throughout the early 1980s, Haines directed episodes of Knots Landing, CBS Afternoon Playhouse and Hill Street Blues. She also continued to direct movies for television such as The Jilting of Granny Weatherall (1980), and the drama Something About Amelia (1984), which earned several Golden Globe awards. Her later television work included Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Tales From the Crypt.
In 1986, Haines made her theatrical feature debut with Children of a Lesser God, starring William Hurt. The film earned much attention at the Academy Awards, and a Best Actress Oscar for newcomer Marlee Matlin. Continuing her collaboration with Hurt, Haines directed the critically acclaimed The Doctor (1991). The director's next project was the drama Wrestling Ernest Hemingway (1993), starring Richard Harris and Robert Duvall. Haines has also directed Dance with Me (1998), and the television movies The Outsider (2002) and The Ron Clark Story (2006).
For her directorial achievements Haines has been nominated for three DGA Awards; two for movies for television (Something About Amelia, The Ron Clark Story) and one for feature films (Children of a Lesser God). Haines was also nominated for a Primetime Emmy for the directing of Something About Amelia. An active Guild member, Haines served on the Western Directors Council from 1991-2006 and on the committee for the Directors Guild Foundation from 1992-2003.