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
Music by Graeme Revell
Cinematography Robert Elswit
Edited by John F. Link
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures
Release dates
  • January 10, 1992 (1992-01-10)
Running time
110 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $11.7 million
Box office $88 million

The Hand That Rocks the Cradle is a 1992 American psychological thriller film directed by Curtis Hanson, and stars Annabella Sciorra and Rebecca De Mornay. The tale follows a vengeful, psychopathic[1] nanny out to destroy a naive woman and steal her family. The original music score was composed by Graeme Revell.


Claire Bartel is pregnant with her second child. At a routine checkup she is sexually molested by her new obstetrician, Dr. Victor Mott. Traumatized, she tells her husband, Michael, who encourages her to report him to the police. More women come forward with similar complaints, and multiple charges are prepared against Dr. Mott, who shoots himself. Later, Dr. Mott's pregnant widow is told by her lawyers that her husband's assets have been frozen because of the lawsuits and that she will lose her luxurious home. Mrs. Mott 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 featuring Claire as the woman who alerted the police, leading Mrs. Mott to swear vengeance.

Claire eventually gives birth to a boy named Joey, and, looking for a nanny, hires Mrs. Mott, who tricks her by using the alias "Peyton Flanders". Mrs. Mott wages a campaign to undermine Claire. She begins breastfeeding Joey in secret (which causes him to no longer take Claire's milk) and encourages her daughter Emma to keep secrets from her mother and tries to turn her against Claire. She also secretly destroys Michael's office proposal. Knowing that Claire's close friend Marlene had been Michael's ex-girlfriend before he married Claire, Mrs. Mott also suggests to Michael that he arrange a surprise party for Claire, leading Marlene and Michael to meet in secret. Claire accuses Michael of having an affair with Marlene, only to find the party-goers waiting in the next room.

Solomon, an intellectually disabled handyman who has been assisting the Bartels, discovers Mrs. Mott breastfeeding Joey. Mrs. Mott then plants a pair of Emma's panties in Solomon's toolbox, leading Claire to fire him. Emma tells Claire that Solomon never did anything to her, but Claire refuses to believe Emma, causing her to turn against her mother as Mrs. Mott had planned. Unknown to the family, except for Emma, Solomon begins to keep a watchful eye over them.

Claire begins to doubt "Peyton" and tells Michael so. Mrs. Mott overhears, then sets a trap for Claire in the greenhouse. Meanwhile, Marlene finds out Mrs. Mott's identity; Marlene plans to warn Claire, but Mrs. Mott tricks her into going into the greenhouse, and she is killed by the falling glass. Mrs. Mott, who knows that Claire suffers from asthma, empties all of her inhalers. When Claire finds Marlene's body, she has a asthma attack and is briefly hospitalized. As Michael is distraught over Marlene's death and his wife's condition, Mrs. Mott attempts to seduce him but he rejects her advances.

Claire eventually uncovers the truth about Mrs. Mott, confronts her, and reveals the truth about "Peyton" to Michael as Mrs. Mott claims that she and Michael are having an affair. Michael kicks Mrs. Mott out, and Claire then tells him to call the police as she realizes that Mrs. Mott rigged the greenhouse to kill her and not Marlene. Michael tells Claire to get Emma and Joey so that they can head to a hotel to be safe.

Later, Mrs. Mott breaks into the house and lures Michael down to the basement where she knocks him down the stairs and breaks his legs with a shovel. Mrs. Mott then attempts to take Emma and Joey, but after seeing Mrs. Mott assault her mother, Emma locks Mrs. Mott in the nursery. Mrs. Mott escapes, and hears Joey in the attic. She enters and sees Solomon aiding the children's escape. Claire enters and Mrs. Mott attempts to kill her, but stops after Claire appears to be having another asthma attack, allowing Mrs. Mott to mock her. As Mrs. Mott tries to take Joey, Claire gets back up, having faked her asthma attack, and Claire pushes Mrs. Mott out of the window, where she falls to her death. Touched at how Solomon risked his life to protect her family, Claire welcomes him back into their lives as they leave the attic while 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.[2]


The Hand That Rocks the Cradle opened on January 10, 1992 and grossed $7,675,016 in its opening weekend,[3] 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.[4][5] It was also placed at #24 in Bravo's special 30 Even Scarier Movie Moments. The film currently holds a rating of 81% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 45 reviews.

Home media[edit]

The Hand That Rocks the Cradle was released on VHS on July 8, 1992, on DVD on December 8, 1998 and Blu-ray on September 4, 2012. 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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 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. PMID 24329037. Retrieved January 17, 2014. 
  2. ^ Filming locations (IMDb). Retrieved 2013-05-30.
  3. ^ "Nanny-from-hell Thriller `Cradle` Surpasses `hook`". Chicago Tribune. 1992-01-17. Retrieved 2010-11-18. 
  4. ^ The Hand That Rocks the Cradle. Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 10 October 2013
  5. ^ 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. 

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