The Death Wish director passed away at his home in London on Monday (21Jan13) with his wife Geraldine at his bedside.
Winner revealed last year (12) that liver specialists had given him just 18 months to live and he had considered ending his life at a euthanasia clinic.
In a statement on Monday, Geraldine Winner said, ""Michael was a wonderful man - brilliant, funny and generous. A light has gone out in my life.""
Born in London in 1935, Winner began his career as a showbiz journalist before moving to the BBC as a screenwriter and assistant director in the late 1950s. He directed several low-budget British movies in the 1960s, and his work with Oliver Reed drew the attention of Hollywood producers.
Winner's breakthrough came directing Marlon Brando in 1972 movie The Nightcomers, and in 1974 he shot his most famous film, controversial vigilante classic Death Wish, starring Charles Bronson.
His movie work thinned out in the 1980s and '90s but he continued to shoot the occasional film, with his last work behind the camera being 1998 comedy Parting Shots.
In recent years, Winner became a famed and feared restaurant critic in the U.K., known for his blunt and often scathing reviews.
Following news of his death, several fellow British stars took to Twitter.com to pay tribute to Winner. Theatre impresario Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber writes, ""Dearest Mr Michael Winner. True originals come rarely in a lifetime. Madeleine and I will deeply miss you,"" and Spandau Ballet star Martin Kemp tweets, ""RIP Michael Winner... I will never forget our meetings... Loss of a great character!"".
Journalist Piers Morgan adds, ""Very sad to hear Michael Winner has died. Hilarious, often preposterous, always generous, highly intelligent man. And terrific writer. RIP... Favourite Winner anecdote was when he bought me a bottle of '61 Latour for dinner, and I told him it was corked. He nearly self-combusted.""