The Hand That Rocks the Cradle (film)

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The Hand That Rocks the Cradle
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Curtis Hanson
Produced by David Madden, Ferdinand Abardo
Written by Amanda Silver
Starring Annabella Sciorra
Rebecca De Mornay
Ernie Hudson
Matt McCoy
Julianne Moore
John de Lancie
Kevin Skousen
Madeline Zima
Music by Graeme Revell
Cinematography Robert Elswit
Edited by John F. Link
Hollywood Pictures
Interscope Communications
Nomura Babcock & Brown
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures
Release date(s) January 10, 1992
Running time 110 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $11,700,000 (estimated) [1]
Box office $88,036,683

The Hand That Rocks the Cradle is a 1992 American psychological thriller film about a vengeful, psychopathic[2] nanny out to destroy a naive woman and steal her family. The film was directed by Curtis Hanson from a screenplay written by Amanda Silver. It stars Annabella Sciorra and Rebecca De Mornay. The original music score was composed by Graeme Revell.


Claire Bartel (Annabella Sciorra) is pregnant with her second child. At a routine checkup, she is sexually molested by the obstetrician, Dr. Victor Mott (John de Lancie). A traumatized Claire tells her husband, Michael (Matt McCoy), who comforts her and encourages her to report the incident in order to prevent more of the same. After Claire goes to the police, four more women come forward with similar complaints and Dr. Mott shoots himself instead of facing the forthcoming arrest and trial.

Dr. Mott's pregnant widow (Rebecca De Mornay) meets with her lawyers. She is told that her husband's assets have been frozen because of the lawsuits and that she will lose her luxurious home. Mrs. Mott collapses, goes into early labor, loses her baby and, after hemorrhaging, is given an emergency hysterectomy. While recovering in the hospital, she sees a news story showing Claire as the woman who alerted the authorities about her husband.

Months pass and Claire gives birth to a boy, Joey. The Bartels publish an ad looking for a nanny. Mrs. Mott, using the pseudonym Peyton Flanders, responds to the ad and tricks them into hiring her by feigning the baby's rescue from choking. A close friend, Marlene Craven (Julianne Moore), warns Claire not to let an attractive woman get a position of power in the family quoting "The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world" from the poem by William Ross Wallace.

Mrs. Mott wages a campaign to undermine Claire. She begins breastfeeding Joey in secret (which causes him to no longer take his own mother's milk), encourages Emma (Madeline Zima) to keep secrets from her mother, secretly destroys Michael's office proposal for his work in a fit of rage, tempts Michael with her sexuality and plants the thought in Claire's head that Michael may be having an affair with Marlene. Mrs. Mott suggests that he arrange a surprise birthday party for Claire, leading to Marlene and Michael having to meet in secret. Claire accuses Michael of having an affair with Marlene, only to find the surprise party, including Marlene and her husband Marty, waiting in the next room. Solomon (Ernie Hudson), a mentally challenged but useful handyman that has been assisting the Bartels, discovers Mrs. Mott breast-feeding Joey. Intent on not having her true identity exposed, Mrs. Mott plants the idea that Solomon has been molesting Emma, by having Claire discover Emma's underwear in his toolbox. Solomon is then fired by the Bartels, much to Emma's devastation.

Claire tells Michael of her doubts about "Peyton", but unknown to them, Mrs. Mott overhears and grows more enraged and psychotic. Mrs. Mott sets a trap for Claire by propping open the glass skylights in her greenhouse so that when the door is opened, the skylights will come crashing down. Marlene, a realtor by trade, comes across Dr. Mott's house, which is still up for sale. She notices that there are wind chimes outside the nursery and remembers a similar gift that Mrs. Mott gave Claire for Joey's nursery. Marlene finds a newspaper clipping that identifies "Peyton" as Mrs. Mott. She rushes over to the Bartel house to warn Claire, but makes the mistake of confronting Mrs. Mott, who springs her trap intended for Claire by demurely admitting the cat is out of the bag and that Claire is in the greenhouse. Marlene pushes open the greenhouse door and is killed by the falling glass. Mrs. Mott, who knows that Claire suffers from asthma, goes around the house emptying all of her medicinal inhalers. When Claire finds Marlene's body, she has a severe asthma attack and passes out while trying to call 9-1-1, resulting in her brief hospitalization. Michael is distraught over Marlene's death and his wife's condition, and Mrs. Mott attempts to seduce him, coming down to the kitchen in a revealing baby doll. However, he stops her before anything happens and tells her that "there's only one woman for me" to which she replies "That's all you need." Unknown to the family, except for Emma, Solomon begins to keep a watchful eye over them.

Claire follows up on Marlene's investigation and realizes that "Peyton" is Mrs. Mott. When she arrives home after discovering it, she punches Mrs. Mott in the face and reveals the truth. Mrs. Mott says that she and Michael are having an affair, repeating his "one woman" comment. Michael declares that he was talking about his wife and orders Mrs. Mott to leave. However, she breaks into the house later and lures Michael down to the basement where she hits him with a shovel, knocking him down the stairs and breaking his legs. Michael orders Claire to hide the children and call the police. Mrs. Mott then hunts for Claire and the children as they hide. She attempts to take Emma and Joey as her new family, but after seeing Mrs. Mott assault her mother, Emma turns on her and locks her into the nursery.

Using a fire poker, Mrs. Mott escapes from the nursery, and hears Joey in the attic. She enters and sees Solomon aiding the children's escape. Claire, who has regained consciousness, enters, where Mrs. Mott attempts to kill her, but stops after Claire appears to be having another asthma attack. Mrs. Mott bends down to taunt Claire, then returns to her pursuit of the children. It's revealed that Claire faked the asthma attack, and the two women brawl. Claire eventually pushes Mrs. Mott out the window, where she falls to her death, hitting the fence that Solomon built.

Touched that Solomon risked his life to protect her family, Claire allows Solomon to handle Joey. The film ends with Claire, Emma and Solomon leaving the attic as the police, and paramedics arrive at the house.

Filming locations[edit]

Filming locations were Issaquah, Washington; Seattle, Washington (Mott's residence at 2502 37th Ave W in Seattle); and Tacoma, Washington.[3]



The Hand That Rocks the Cradle opened on January 10, 1992 and grossed $7,675,016 in its opening weekend,[4] bringing Hook down to #2 from its four-week stay at #1. The film lasted at #1 for four consecutive weeks, then was upended by Medicine Man. By the end of its run, the film earned a domestic total of $88,036,683.[5][6] It was also placed at #24 in Bravo's special 30 Even Scarier Movie Moments. Cybill Shepherd was reported by the Chicago Tribune to have turned down the role of the nanny because "the story preyed on the worst fears of women" and conflicted with her feminist beliefs.[7] The film currently holds a rating of 63% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 45 reviews.

Home media[edit]

The Hand That Rocks the Cradle was released on DVD on December 8, 1998. The film was presented in its original widescreen aspect ratio, approximately 1.85.1. The only special feature included on the DVD is the film's original theatrical trailer. It was released on Blu-ray on September 4, 2012.


The film's plot was reproduced for the Hindi film Khal Nayika (1993) starring Anu Agarwal as the nanny, Jaya Prada as the wife, Jeetendra as the husband, and Varsha Usgaokar as the wife's friend.[8][9] The same plot was also reproduced for a Telugu film titled Kavya's Diary (2009) starring Charmi and Manjula Ghattamaneni. The 2007 made-for-TV film The Sitter had a similar plot.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Box office/business for The Hand That Rocks the Cradle (1992). IMDb. Retrieved 10 October 2013
  2. ^ Leistedt, Samuel J.; Linkowski, Paul (January 2014). "Psychopathy and the Cinema: Fact or Fiction?". Journal of Forensic Sciences (American Academy of Forensic Sciences) 59 (1): 167–174. doi:10.1111/1556-4029.12359. Retrieved January 17, 2014. 
  3. ^ Filming locations (IMDb). Retrieved 2013-05-30.
  4. ^ "Nanny-from-hell Thriller `Cradle` Surpasses `hook`". Chicago Tribune. 1992-01-17. Retrieved 2010-11-18. 
  5. ^ The Hand That Rocks the Cradle. Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 10 October 2013
  6. ^ Mathews, Jack (1992-02-03). "COMMENTARY : Why Disney's 'Cradle' Rocked the Nation : Movies: Savvy marketing turns films from the big screen into hot topics for the small screen..". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-11-18. 
  7. ^ Seigel, Jessica (1993-03-28). "Bad Role Model Or Great Role?". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2010-11-18. 
  8. ^ Khal-Naaikaa, a bollycat of The Hand That Rocks the Cradle.
  9. ^ Bollywood and Plagiarism: List of Bollywood movies copied from Hollywood.

External links[edit]