The filmmaker has died in Los Angeles, his wife and former producer Sherry Lansing has confirmed.
Born in Chicago to Jewish immigrants from Ukraine, Friedkin credited the sight Citizen Kane at the age of 25 for his interest in cinema.
His first film was Good timesa 1967 musical comedy set in the Wild West and starring Sonny and Cher.
It wasn’t until The French Connection although he became a household name.
The film, starring Gene Hackman as detective Jimmy “Popeye” Boyle, won five Oscars, including best picture and best director.
Friedkin continued The ExorcistConsidered by many to be the greatest horror film of all time, the story of a little girl who seems possessed by demonic powers.
It was the first film ever to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, and noted critic Mark Kermode called it his favorite film of all time.
Other film appearances include To Live and Die in LA, Cruising, Rules of Engagement, and a TV remake of the classic play and Sidney Lumet film 12 Angry Men.
Friedkin has also directed episodes for television shows such as The Twilight Zone, Rebel Highway, and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.
Friedkin’s last film The court-martial of the Caine mutinywill premiere next month at the Venice International Film Festival.
He is survived by his fourth wife, Sherry Lansing, and two sons, Cedric and Jack.