Hanson, along with Brian Helgeland, won an Oscar in 1997 for best writing for their adapted screenplay of the novel of the same name by James Ellroy.
As a producer of the stylish 1997 period film, Hanson also shared the nomination for best picture and was nominated for best director. "L.A. Confidential" won an Oscar for actress Kim Basinger and was nominated for its cinematography, art direction, sound, editing and score.
The film reproduced '50s Los Angeles, from the streets to the costumes, and Hanson used an ensemble cast that also included Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, James Cromwell, Danny DeVito and David Strathairn.
"Curtis Hanson's resplendently wicked 'L.A. Confidential' is a tough, gorgeous, vastly entertaining throwback to the Hollywood that did things right," The New York Times said.
The film was a popular success, grossing $126 million worldwide, according to Variety.
Hanson followed "L.A. Confidential" with the popular comedy "Wonder Boys," adapted by Steve Kloves from the novel by Michael Chabon about an English professor, played by Michael Douglas, who is under pressure to finish his book amid a literary festival in Pittsburgh.
The director continued his winning streak with "8 Mile," which starred Eminem and fictionalized to some extent the rapper's harrowing true-life story of seeking to break into the rap world in his hometown of Detroit. Just how much of it represented true life was greatly debated.
Hanson's other films included "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle," "The River Wild" and "In Her Shoes."
Hanson served as the first chairman of the UCLA Film and Television Archive beginning in 1999 and as a member of the board of governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences from 2001.
Hanson is survived by a son, born in 2004, with companion Rebecca Yeldham, a producer, according to Variety.