Charges follow several months of investigation into the allegations by women against Weinstein and involved Manhattan's district attorney's office.
Weinstein arrived at the 1st Precinct in Manhattan in NY early Friday to turn himself in.
"Assuming we get 12 fair people who are not consumed by the movement that seems to have overtaken this case", he said.
Film mogul Weinstein appears handcuffed in court to face rape charges
"We got you, Harvey Weinstein, we got you", actor Rose McGowan tweeted, as Weinstein sat in court. "But it didn't take too much brain power to put it together that a man who was so abusive and bullying in every aspect of his life would bring that abuse into the sexual arena". In 2015, Ambra Gutierrez, 25, a Filipina-Italian model, went to the NY police claiming that Mr Weinstein had groped her in his office. He has denied ever having nonconsensual sex.
More than 75 women have made allegations against Weinstein, including (from top row left) Asia Argento, Rosanna Arquette, Jessica Barth, Cara Delevingne, Romola Garai, Judith Godreche, Heather Graham, Angelina Jolie, Ashley Judd, Rose McGowan, Lea Seydoux and Mira Sorvino.
The case marks the first criminal charges against the Hollywood mogul after months of sexual abuse allegations from scores of women, which destroyed his career and catalysed the #MeToo movement.
Details of those making the accusations have not yet been officially released, but former actress Lucia Evans, who said Mr Weinstein forced her into oral sex in 2004, is thought to be one of the women whose cases triggered the charges.
The New York Police Department issued a statement thanking "these courageous survivors for their courage to come forward and seek justice". When he was led into the courtroom, police still had his hands cuffed behind his back. Harvey is also under investigation by the U.S. Attorney in New York City. Investigators decided not to charge him even though there was an audiotape of Mr Weinstein accepting he had touched Ms Battilana's breasts and pledging not to do so again. In March, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered a review of Vance's decision not to press charges. According to the New York Police Department, these charges are in relation to incidents involving two women in New York. "This is a big strike into the heart of abuse of power".
The fate of Harvey Weinstein's former company had been in limbo for months, as it sought to unwind itself from its co-founder, and then find a buyer. "Today is for you - and also for the young women who would surely have become his next victims.Justice" - Actress Mia Farrow, also the mother of investigative journalist Ronan Farrow who helped break Weinstein story, addressing Mira Sorvino on Twitter. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, whose case against Strauss-Kahn fell apart, has been heavily criticized for failing to bring a criminal case against Weinstein for allegedly groping and harassing Italian model Ambra Battilana.More news: Millions to hit the roads for the holiday weekend
More news: As Austin sees slowest growth in years, Pflugerville rises up
More news: Ariana Grande sends love to fans on Manchester massacre anniversary