The Hand That Rocks the Cradle is a 1992 American Psychological Thriller about a vengeful nanny out to destroy a naïve woman and steal her family. The film was directed by Curtis Hanson, starring Annabella Sciorra, Rebecca De Mornay, and Matt McCoy. 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 assaulted by the obstetrician, Dr. Victor Mott (John de Lancie). Claire tells her husband, Michael (Matt McCoy), and they report the incident to the authorities. Four more women come forward with similar complaints and Dr. Mott commits suicide to avoid being arrested and charged.
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. Mrs. Mott, using the pseudonym Peyton Flanders, applies for the position of nanny 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, 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, a disabled worker 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.
Claire tells Michael of her doubts about Peyton, but 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 is misled by Mrs. Mott 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. Michael, distraught over Marlene's death and his wife's condition, tells a sympathetic Mrs. Mott that "there's only one woman for me." Mrs. Mott, thinking he is talking about her, 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. 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. Mrs. Mott breaks into the house 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 firepoker, Mrs. Mott escapes from the nursery, and hears Joey in the attic. She enters and to her surprise, sees Solomon aiding the children into escaping. Claire, who has regained consciousness, enters, where Mrs. Mott attempts to kill her, but stops after Claire starts having difficulties breathing due her asthma. Mrs. Mott then reveals her breast-feeding to Joey in an attempt to taunt Claire. Mrs. Mott returns to her pursuit of the children, Claire who faked the asthma attack, subdues her, but Mrs. Mott throws Claire onto her back, and attempts to kill her with the firepoker, but is stopped by Solomon. Mrs. Mott, furious over Solomon, begins to hit him with the firepoker, Claire then pushes her out the window, where she falls to her death, by hitting the fence that Solomon built.
Touched by the fact, that Solomon risked his life to protect her family, Claire allows Solomon to handle Joey. The film ends with Claire, Emma & Solomon leaving the attic, while the paramedics arrive at the house.
- Annabella Sciorra as Claire Bartel
- Rebecca De Mornay as Peyton Flanders/Mrs. Mott
- Matt McCoy as Michael Bartel
- Ernie Hudson as Solomon
- Julianne Moore as Marlene Craven
- Madeline Zima as Emma Bartel
- John de Lancie as Dr. Victor Mott
- Kevin Skousen as Marty Craven
- Ashley, Eric, & Jennifer Melander as Baby Joe.