Nichols' death was announced in a statement by ABC News President James Goldston.
"He was a true visionary, winning the highest honors in the arts for his work as a director, writer, producer and comic and was one of a tiny few to win the EGOT-an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony in his lifetime," Goldston said in the statement.
"No one was more passionate about his craft than Mike."
Nichols was born in Germany in 1931, and came to the United States when he was 7 years old, when his family escaped Nazi Germany. He arrived in America speaking little English, but his enthusiasm for his new country never waned.
But Nichols forged his legacy as a director, helming hits on Broadway and the silver screen – from "Barefoot in the Park" and "The Odd Couple" to "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" and "The Graduate." He earned the Oscar for best director for "The Graduate."
His unparalleled career, which stretched a half-century, included such successes as "Carnal Knowledge," "Working Girl," "The Birdcage" and "Closer." He earned his eighth Tony two years ago for his revival of "Death of a Salesman."
He had recently been working on a project for HBO to adapt "Master Class," Terrence McNally's Tony Award-winning play about opera legend Maria Callas. The project would have reunited him with frequent collaborator Meryl Streep.
Nichols is survived by his wife, children Daisy, Max and Jenny, and four grandchildren.