His death, on Friday at his home in Zurich, Switzerland, was confirmed by his agent, according to the New York Times.
Among the actor's more notable roles are his depiction of an angel longing for the sensual experience of corporality in Wim Wender's 1987 Wings of Desire and as the increasingly-deranged Nazi leader Adolf Hitler in the 2004 film Downfall.
Ganz's study of the genocidal World War II fuhrer brought him fame of a different kind in what would be the first major German film to focus on the reviled historical figure.
Reviews were supportive of Ganz's portrayal of the chief Nazi, with The Guardian's Rob Mackie declaring that "Nothing prepared me for what must be the most convincing screen Hitler yet. […] An old, bent, sick dictator with the shaking hands of someone with Parkinson's, alternating between rage and despair in his last days in the bunker," cited by Nytimes.com.
Although Ganz's portrayal of Hitler elicited powerful reaction online and in print, the actor maintained that, in person, he was a mild introvert who enjoyed watching others.
"I like to walk. I like to read. I like to watch people. I'm very curious, " Ganz — who was born in Switzerland to a middle-class family of mechanics — said in a 2005 interview with The San Francisco Chronicle, cited by Nytimes.com.
Ganz was stunned in 1996 when he was handed off the Iffland-Ring by predecessor Josef Meinrad, an ornate ring studded with diamonds and depicting 18th-century German actor-director August Iffland.
The ring is given to the "most significant and most worthy actor of the German-speaking theater," according to the New York Times.
Ganz had humorously noted that his famous portrayal of an angel in Wings of Desire resulted in fans assuming that he had a direct connection to heaven, to the point of bringing children before him for a blessing and saying to him on airplanes: "Now you are with us, nothing can happen."