Rochefort died in Paris on Sunday night, his daughter Clémence announced on Monday.
Easily recognisable by his height, his moustache and a certain elegance of bearing, he worked in theatre, TV, radio and, most of all, cinema, becoming one of France's best-known actors.
Despite being born in Paris, he spent some of his childhood in the provincial cities of Vichy and Nantes.
"God knows I was bored as a child," was his comment on that period later.
He gained a taste for drama from listening to plays on the radio and was persuaded to enrol in acting classes by a friend in Nantes.
Apart from a year in the USSR, where he married one of his first wife, he spent most of his career in France, working with some of the country's most famous directors, in particular Patrice Leconte, whose favourite he was in the 1970s.
At the age of 85, after playing in Philippe Le Guay's Floride, he announced his retirement.
"I don't want to make horror movies, so it's best to stop," he told Europe 1 radio.
Rochefort, whose main hobby was horseriding, married three times - to Alexandra Moscwa, Nicole Garcia and Françoise Vidal - and had five children.
He expressed regrets for having been a "bad father" because he concentrated on his career.
Jean Rochefort, a life in dates
29 April 1930: Born in Paris to Célestin Rochefort, an oil industry executive, and Fernande, née Guillot, an accountant;
1948: In Nantes because of the temporary separation of his parents, he starts theatre classes;
1949: Starts at acting school in Paris, going on to the National Conservatory of Dramatic Arts;
1953: Does national service, then joins the Compagnie Grenier-Hussenot thretre troupe;
1961: First major film role in Philippe de Broca’s Cartouche;
1970s: Works with director Yves Robert on a number of French cinema hits;
1973: Acts in Bertrand Tavernier’s L’Horloger de St Paul (The Clockmaker);
1976: Wins France's César best actor award for his role in Tavernier’s Que la fête commence (Let Joy Reign Supreme);
1976: Best actor César for role in Pierre Schoendoerffer’s Le Crabe-tambour (The Drummer Crab);
1999: Lifetime achievement César;
2013: Publishes his souvenirs, Ce Genre de choses (That Sort of Thing);
2015: Plays in Philippe Le Guay’s Floride with Sandrine Kimberlain, announces retirement from acting.
8 October 2017: Dies in Paris at the age of 87.