He became a legend with Stanley Kubrick's 1960 film Spartacus. He had three Academy Award nominations and a lifetime achievement award.
Kirk Douglas, a Hollywood legend with a career spanning decades, has died at the age of 103, his son and fellow screen star Michael Douglas announced.
"To the world he was a legend, an actor from the golden age of movies who lived well into his golden years, a humanitarian whose commitment to justice and the causes he believed in set a standard for all of us to aspire to," his son wrote in a post on Facebook.
Douglas rose to fame with the 1949 film Champion where he demonstrated the complexity of his antihero character. He continued to play villain-like roles but also was known for his depth and range as an actor, according to the American Film Institute.
Douglas would venture into many aspects of filmmaking, creating his own production company in 1955. He produced and starred in Stanley Kubrick's 1957 Paths of Glory and 1960 Spartacus.
The actor received significant praise for working with screenwriter Dalton Trumbo who had been labelled as a communist and blacklisted during the McCarthy trials.
In the 1950s and 1960s, he worked with several of Hollywood's leading ladies including Lauren Bacall, Doris Day, and Eve Miller.
Douglas was the recipient of the American Film Institute's 19th Life Achievement Award and had been nominated for an Academy Award several times.
He won an honorary Oscar in 1996.
"He shaped his villainy with compassion. His characters weren't bigger than life, they were life reconverted," director Steven Spielberg said as he presented the Oscar to Douglas.
Douglas was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960 with a star on the boulevard.
Born in a small town in New York, Douglas' childhood was difficult before he rose to become Hollywood royalty.
His parents were Jewish immigrants from Russia and he grew up extremely poor.
In a 1988 autobiography called "The Ragman's Son", Douglas wrote about his family's poverty. His father was illiterate and collected junk to sell.
But he would rise to become one of Hollywood's most famous stars.
Kirk Douglas left behind a cinema dynasty including his actor son Michael, two other producer sons, an actress daughter-in-law, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and a grandson who is also an actor.