He died of esophageal cancer and complications from heart disease. He was treated for cancer in 2010, but suffered a recurrence in 2015.
Demme had a long and diverse career that started in the '70s with directing B-movies produced by the legendary Roger Corman. In the '80s, he went to oversee hits like "Swing Shift," with Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, and "Something Wild," with Melanie Griffith.
In 1991, he won an Academy Award for directing "Silence of the Lambs," one of the few films to win all five major Oscar categories (Picture, Director, Screenplay, Actor, Actress). He followed that up with the acclaimed "Philadelphia," starring Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington.
Demme is survived by wife Joanne Howard and their three children.