King was 70 when he died Friday at his home in Santa Monica, his son-in-law, Allison Burnett, said.
"Zalman was an extraordinary man and artist, more complex and humane than those who knew him only from afar could possibly imagine," Burnett said.
Although King established his reputation as a writer, producer, director and cinematographer, the auteur born Zalman Lefkovitz in Trenton, N.J., started out as an actor in the 1960s, the BBC said Sunday.
From there he moved behind the camera in the 1980s to make films with an erotic point of view.
King went on to direct the erotic films "Two Moon Junction" in 1988 and "Wild Orchid" in 1989.
Burnett said King "had a singular vision, a unique vision, and very few filmmakers in the advent of cinema have made a visual statement that undeniably belongs to them, a visual signature."
King is survived by his wife, screenwriter Patricia Louisianna Knop, and daughters Chloe King and Gillian Lefkowitz.