He was born in Lund and went on to study at Sweden's national drama school, eventually meeting Ingmar Bergman in 1955. Bergman's first film starring von Sydow was 1957's The Seventh Seal, in which von Sydow stars as a man playing chess against Death.
Bergman also cast von Sydow in Wild Strawberries that same year, followed by Brink of Life, Rabies and The Magician in 1958. They also collaborated on Winter Light and The Virgin Spring.
The actor branched out internationally, starring as Jesus in The Greatest Story Ever Told in 1965, but he was really catapulted to international fame with his role as the priest in 1973's The Exorcist.
He showed off his lighter side in films like Conan the Barbarian and Flash Gordon, and even appeared in David Lynch's Dune.
In more recent years, von Sydow had roles in Shutter Island, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
His final television role was that of the Three-Eyed Raven on Game of Thrones.
He also starred in Nicholas Dimitropoulos's film Echoes of the Past, which is currently in post-production.
Read some of the social media tributes pouring in below.
The legendary actor who gave us both Brewmeister Smith and Ming the Merciless has finally laid down his King in the eternal chess match. Farewell, Max von Sydow. You were in many much more respected movies than Strange Brew and Flash Gordon but I loved you for those flicks first. https://t.co/ltytehF5Rm— KevinSmith (@ThatKevinSmith) March 9, 2020
Max Von Sydow, such an iconic presence in cinema for seven decades, it seemed like he'd always be with us. He changed the face of international film with Bergman, played Christ, fought the devil, pressed the HOT HAIL button & was Oscar nominated for a silent performance. A god. pic.twitter.com/klhJ9RusdQ— edgarwright (@edgarwright) March 9, 2020
RIP Max Von Sydow, finally free of this tiresome planet. pic.twitter.com/NX4EWRW43O— Kevin M. Kruse (@KevinMKruse) March 9, 2020
There is no better, neater definition of cinema than Max von Sydow's face.— Robbie Collin (@robbiereviews) March 9, 2020