Ruiz died Friday at Saint-Antoine hospital in Paris following complications from a pulmonary infection, according to Francois Margolin, a producer who had worked with him.
Ruiz had made his home in France since fleeing his native Chile in 1973, but he made films in many countries and languages.
Just last year his Mistérios de Lisboa (Mysteries of Lisbon), a four-and-a-half hour saga about the life of the 19th century Portuguese aristocracy, wowed festival crowds around the world.
He is known for adapting authors for the screen, including Marcel Proust in 1999′s Time Regained, Shakespeare in 1986′s Richard III and Dante’s Inferno in a 1991 TV series.
He was an innovative director, playing with the cinematic form in work ranging from comedies and crime thrillers to documentaries.
In biopic Klimt, Malkovich starred with French actresses Laetitia Casta and Catherine Deneuve and late Italian legend Marcello Mastroianni.
Another English-language film was 2010 thriller A Closed Book, starring Darryl Hannah and Tom Conti.
“He was one of our greatest living filmmakers, who left considerable work and will remain a reference in the history of cinema,” Margolin told AFP.
Ruiz frequently turned his skills to stories about his native Chile and at the time of his death was editing a film he had shot about his childhood. He had planned another work about a Napoleonic battle, Margolin said.
President Nicolas Sarkozy said Ruiz would be missed as an “unmatched storyteller” who was also “a man of universal culture drawing inspiration from all the arts in all countries.”
Ruiz was born on July 25, 1941, in Chile and grew up near Valparaiso where his father was an officer in the merchant navy. He studied law and theology and studied film in Argentina.
He directed his first full length feature, Tres Tristes Tigres (Three Sad Tigers) about the interconnected lives of three citizens of Santiago in 1968. After fleeing Chile’s descent into right-wing dictatorship, he made close to 100 films and became known as one of Europe’s great arthouse directors.
He will be buried in Chile.