Bo was a rising star in China's leadership circles and cultivated a loyal following with his charisma and populist, quasi-Maoist policies, especially among those left out in the cold by China's anything-for-growth economic policies.
But his career was stopped short last year by a murder scandal in which his wife, Gu Kailai, was convicted of poisoning a British businessman, Neil Heywood, who had been a family friend.
While Bo has the right to appeal within 10 days from Monday, the sentence effectively puts an end to his political ambitions and the glamorous lifestyle he enjoyed as a member of China's ruling elite.
The court in the eastern city of Jinan, where Bo was tried, ordered that all his personal assets be seized and deprived him of his political rights for life.
"Bo Xilai was a servant of the state, he abused his power, causing huge damage to the country and its people ... The circumstances were especially serious," the court said in its judgment.
State media said he would probably appeal, in which case the supreme court would hear the case within two months. As all courts are party controlled, they are unlikely to overturn the verdict.
While Bo could have been given the death penalty, many observers had felt this was unlikely as the party would not have wanted to make a martyr of him.
Bo did himself few favours with his feisty defence at his five-day trial, said Zhang Ming, a professor at Renmin University in Beijing. "My predication was for shorter," he said. "His denial of guilt led to a longer sentence."
The court showed a picture of a handcuffed Bo, with clenched fists in an apparent show of defiance, flanked by policemen who held him by his shoulders and forearms.
Heavy security and roadblocks around the courthouse kept bystanders back, with no signs of any Bo sympathisers present. At the beginning of his trial a handful had shown up to express support.
At the end of Bo's trial last month, prosecutors demanded a heavy sentence, saying his "whimsical" challenge to charges flew in the face of the evidence. The court rejected Bo's defence almost entirely, aside from one small section of the bribery charge related to travel expenses for Bo's wife and their son, Bo Guagua, for which it said the prosecution's case was flawed.
It also rejected Bo's claims of coming "under psychological pressure" when he said he initially admitted to Communist Party anti-corruption investigators that he had received bribes.
"The pressure Bo Xilai said he came under does not count as being illegal under the rules about forced confession," it said.
Gu Yushu, a lawyer appointed by Bo's sister, Bo Jieying, but ultimately denied permission to represent him in court, said he did not believe the evidence submitted justified the sentence. "The facts were vague and unclear," he said.
One of Bo's most high-profile supporters was, however, unbowed by the sentence.
"Knowing the kind of person he is, he will fight to the end," said Sima Nan, a well-known defender of Bo's policies who makes a living appearing on television entertainment shows. "This is like a soap opera and we're only half-way through."
A light sentence could have undermined President Xi Jinping's pledge to go after corrupt political heavyweights as harshly as those lower down the pecking order.
Bo may still end up being released early, said Shang Baojun, a prominent human rights lawyer, who added: "Release on bail and medical parole are both common for government officials."