The actor died at his home in Venice, California, surrounded by family and friends having suffered for some time from terminal prostate cancer.
With a gravelly voice and a menacing appearance, he was one of the most distinctive actors of his era. he was also a supremely gifted director.
While his heyday was in the 60s and 70s, he reinvigorated his career in later life, playing ‘baddies’ in films such as Blue Velvet and Speed.
Like many of the great stars, he learnt his trade in the Actors Studio, making his debut television appearance in 1955 and his film debut in Rebel Without a Cause, starring James Dean, in the same year.
He came to prominence in the cult classic Easy Rider, which he also directed with great success. the film also starring Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson is perhaps the greatest – and certainly best known – of American road movies.
The film won an award at Cannes while Hopper was nominated for an Oscar for best original screenplay.
He never really reached such heights again although he went on to enjoy critical acclaim in Apocalypse Now (1979), playing a manic photojournalist, while in recent years he became known to younger audiences for intense performances in the action movie Speed, where he played a bomber terrorising a bus full of passengers, and True Romance.
In March this year he was received his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame – the 2,403rd star on Hollywood Boulevard.
Hopper was also a prolific photographer, painter, and sculptor whose works are exhibited worldwide.
Off-screen his life was every bit as colourful as the movies he made.
He was married five times and frequently embarked on drug and drink binges before periodically checking himself in to rehab clinics.
He had recently been involved in a bitter divorce case against Victoria Duffy-Hopper, 42, who had been his wife of 14 years.