This film reveals the anatomy of a stormy and obsessive love affair between a recently divorced art dealer who is quite repressed and a rich, emotionally chilly stockbroker. Based on a novel by Elizabeth McNeill, the film is given distinctive visual and aural textures by the artful direction of Adrian Lyne (Flashdance), the cinematography of Peter Biziou, and the music of Jack Nitzsche.

John (Mickey Rourke is another vivid screen performance) is a control freak who revels in the freedom his financial success has given him to create an alternate private world in his relationships with women. On his first date with Elizabeth (Kim Basinger in a strong performance), he realizes her need to be dominated and her malleability to sexcapades of his designing. They seek out strange places for their erotic encounters, including an old clock tower, the Chelsea Hotel, a dark alley, and even Bloomingdales. (What we see on the screen indicates that certain explicit scenes in this sadomasochistic relationship were left on the editing room floor.) Initially swept away by all John's lavish attentions - the expensive gifts, the ever-new variations in their sexual couplings — Elizabeth slowly begins to see herself as a pawn for his pleasure. She is eventually turned off by his refusal to share anything about his life.

Psychologist Robert Stoller's research into the dynamics of eros has led him to believe "sexual pleasure in most humans depends on neurotic mechanisms." He further contends that there is no sexual arousal without scripts — the dramas and fantasies people create in their minds to trigger libidinal excitement. Stroller's conclusion: the same psychic factors found in perversion are located in the sexual lives of most people — hostility, risk, and aggression. 9 1/2 weeks, as a frank depiction of the dynamics of sexual power, is a thought-provoking exploration of these aspects of eros.