His death came two days after Ebert announced on his blog that he was undergoing radiation treatment after a recurrence of cancer.
"So on this day of reflection I say again, thank you for going on this journey with me. I'll see you at the movies." Ebert wrote on his blog.
Ebert had been a film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times since 1967. Millions recognized the chatty, heavy-set man with wavy hair and horn-rimmed glasses, and they followed the thumb - pointing up or down. It was the main logo of the televised shows Ebert co-hosted with the late Gene Siskel of the rival Chicago Tribune.
Ebert and Siskel loved to bicker over their love -- and sometimes hate -- of movies. Ebert gained great fame on television opposite Siskel in their weekly movie review show, which continued with Sun-Times colleague Richard Roeper after Siskel's death.
But Ebert was also a superstar in print, having penned thousands of reviews.
"I often wake up and write a review before breakfast. I like to write, I enjoy writing and I love movies," Ebert said.
Ebert, who also wrote more than 20 books, was the first journalist to win a Pulitzer Prize for film criticism.
He had been battling cancer for a decade, a cancer that robbed him of the ability to speak, eat and drink and drastically changed his appearance. But Ebert still felt like the same guy inside. He said he found it tremendously hard that he could no longer laugh out loud. But he didn't lose his sense of humor.
"I hope people know that behind these problems, I am still absolutely the same guy," Ebert said. "My mind is the same, and my mind is me."
With Chaz, his wife of more than 20 years by his side, Ebert said he was happy.
"For a generation of Americans - and especially Chicagoans - Roger was the movies. When he didn't like a film, he was honest; when he did, he was effusive - capturing the unique power of the movies to take us somewhere magical," President Barack Obama said in a statement. "Even amidst his own battles with cancer, Roger was as productive as he was resilient - continuing to share his passion and perspective with the world. The movies won't be the same without Roger."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.