British film director Michael Winner has died aged 77.

Announcing the news, his wife Geraldine said: “Michael was a wonderful man, brilliant, funny and generous. A light has gone out in my life.”

Winner, who produced and directed more than 30 films, had been ill for some time and died at his home in Kensington, south London today (Jan 21).

Born in Hampstead in 1935, he began his career as a journalist and film critic. In 1956, he joined Motion Pictures Limited as a writer and editor.

He made his directorial debut in 1960 with Shoot to Kill, based on a story he wrote about a showbiz reporter who becomes embroiled in political intrigue.

After gaining Hollywood attention with his World War II satire Hannibal Brooks in 1969, he made his first film in the US – Lawman, starring Burt Lancaster and Robert Duvall – in 1971.

The following year, he directed Marlon Brando in The Nightcomers and worked with Lancaster again on espionage drama Scorpio in 1973.

Winner became best known for the Death Wish films, starring Charles Bronson as a violent vigilante, the first of which he directed in 1974. Both Winner and Bronson returned for the 1982 sequel and the third instalment in 1985.

In returned to making British films in the 1990s and directed his final film, comedy crime feature Parting Shots, in 1998.

Over the past 20 years, he carved out a career as a restaurant critic, writing his Winner’s Dinners column for The Sunday Times.

Winner is survived by his wife, Geraldine, who he met in 1957 when she was a ballet dancer. They married in 2011.