Kristel died in her sleep Wednesday night, according to a statement from her agent, Features Creative Management.
Her breakthrough came in "Emmanuelle," a 1974 erotic tale directed by Frenchman Just Jaeckin, about the sexual adventures of a man and his beautiful young wife, played by Kristel.
She went on to star in several sequels to "Emmanuelle," as well as in Hollywood movies including "The Concorde: Airport '79," "The Fifth Musketeer" (both 1979) and "Private Lessons" (1981).
Kristel appeared in more than 50 films, many erotically tinted, including a 1981 adaptation — also directed by Jaeckin — of D.H. Lawrence's novel "Lady Chatterley's Lover."
She was honored in 2006 with a special jury prize at the Tribeca Film Festival for a short animated film she directed called "Topor et Moi."
Kristel told the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant in 2005 that her former partner, Belgian author Hugo Claus, had persuaded her to star in "Emmanuelle," which was set in Thailand.
"He said, 'Thailand, that's nice, we've never been there and anyway the film will never come out in the Netherlands so you won't put your mother to shame,' " Kristel said. "In the end, 350 million people saw it worldwide."
Born in Utrecht in 1952, Kristel studied ballet and worked as a secretary before turning to acting and modeling. She struggled with the attention "Emmanuelle" brought her, and in Hollywood sank into a world of drink and drugs.
"Men still assume I must be like the girl I played in 'Emmanuelle,' " Kristel told Times movie writer Roderick Mann in 1980. "John Wayne was never accused of killing people during his free time, but I'm forever stuck with the image of 'Emmanuelle.' The truth is, I should have got an Oscar for that role because I'm nothing like that woman."
Kristel is survived by her partner, Peter Brul; and a son with Claus, Arthur Kristel.