The 9-node quadrilateral shell element MITC9i is developed for the Reissner-Mindlin shell kinematics, the extended potential energy and Green strain. The following features of its formulation ensure an improved behavior: 1. The MITC technique is used to avoid locking, and we propose improved transformations for bending and transverse shear strains, which render that all patch tests are passed for the regular mesh, i.e. with straight element sides and middle positions of midside nodes and a central node. 2. To reduce shape distortion effects, the so-called corrected shape functions of Celia and Gray (Int J Numer Meth Eng 20:1447–1459, 1984) are extended to shells and used instead of the standard ones. In effect, all patch tests are passed additionally for shifts of the midside nodes along straight element sides and for arbitrary shifts of the central node. 3. Several extensions of the corrected shape functions are proposed to enable computations of non-flat shells. In particular, a criterion is put forward to determine the shift parameters associated with the central node for non-flat elements. Additionally, the method is presented to construct a parabolic side for a shifted midside node, which improves accuracy for symmetric curved edges. Drilling rotations are included by using the drilling Rotation Constraint equation, in a way consistent with the additive/multiplicative rotation update scheme for large rotations. We show that the corrected shape functions reduce the sensitivity of the solution to the regularization parameter \( \gamma \) of the penalty method for this constraint. The MITC9i shell element is subjected to a range of linear and non-linear tests to show passing the patch tests, the absence of locking, very good accuracy and insensitivity to node shifts. It favorably compares to several other tested 9-node elements.