This paper focuses on free vibration of hemi-ellipsoidal shells with the consideration of the bending rigidity and nonlinear terms in strain energy. The appropriate form of the energy functional is formulated based on the principle of virtual work and the fundamental form of surfaces. Natural frequencies and their corresponding mode shapes are determined using the modified direct iteration method. The obtained results, which show a close agreement with previous research, are compared with those obtained based on the membrane theory. The effect of the support condition, thickness, size ratio, and volume constraint condition on frequency parameters and mode shapes is demonstrated. With the bending rigidity, shell thickness has a significant impact on the frequency, especially in higher vibration modes and in shells with a considerable thickness but the frequency parameter converges to that determined by using the membrane theory while the reference radius-to-thickness ratio is increasing. In addition, accounting for the bending rigidity solves the issue of determining natural frequencies and mode shapes of the shells using the membrane theory without the volume constraint condition. The obtained results also indicate that the free vibration analysis with bending is essential for the hemi-ellipsoidal shell with a base radius-to-thickness ratio of less than 100, which gives over 2.84% difference compared with that of the shell derived by membrane theory, and this allows engineers to perform the analysis in more applications.