The hand on the cradle

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German title The hand on the cradle
Original title The Hand That Rocks the Cradle
Country of production United States
original language English
Publishing year 1992
length 110 minutes
Age rating FSK 16
Director Curtis Hanson
script Amanda Silver
production David Madden
music Graeme Revell
camera Robert Elswit
cut John F. Link

The hand on the cradle (original title: The Hand That Rocks the Cradle ) is an American thriller by the director Curtis Hanson , who brought the actress Rebecca De Mornay the international breakthrough in 1992. It was produced by the Disney subsidiary Hollywood Pictures together with Interscope Communications and Nomura Babcock & Brown.


The young Claire Bartel, married to the genetic engineer Michael, is expecting her second child. The Bartels already have a daughter, seven-year-old Emma. During a routine check-up with her new gynecologist, Dr. Victor Mott, Claire is sexually abused by this one . She reports it, whereupon more women contact, also by Dr. Mott were abused. The doctor commits suicide in his house, and his widow, also heavily pregnant, has a premature birth due to the excitement. Her baby dies immediately after birth and she can no longer have children. As Mrs. Mott lies desperately in the hospital, she sees a report on the case against her husband and a picture of Claire Bartel, who is named. Feeling that Claire has caused her misfortune, Mrs. Mott plans to take revenge on Claire.

Six months later (Claire has since given birth to her son Joe), the Bartels are looking for a nanny. Mrs. Mott, who now calls herself Peyton Flanders, applies for the position and gets it. She nests with the Bartels, makes herself indispensable and begins to spin intrigues. Claire's friend, the bitchy real estate agent Marlene Craven, is suspicious of Peyton from the start and thinks it unwise to bring such an attractive woman into the house and entrust her with the children. She utters the sentence that explains the title of the film: "The hand on the cradle is the hand that rules the world."

First, Peyton secretly breastfeeds the baby, who then no longer allows Claire to breastfeed. She wins Emma's trust and lets the little girl watch horror films, which Claire has strictly forbidden. Peyton impresses on Emma that this must remain a secret between the two of them. Emma tells Peyton that her father and "Aunt Marlene" knew each other as children and "went together". Emma also reports that she is being teased by a boy at school. Her mother complained to the teacher, but it did nothing. In the playground, Peyton grabs the boy, twists his arm and scares him so that he leaves Emma alone from now on. That too must remain a secret. Emma adores Peyton and begins to reject her mother more and more.

The Bartels have hired Solomon, a mentally handicapped man, to build a garden fence for them. Solomon lends a hand everywhere, only the baby is not entrusted to him. Solomon and Emma are good friends, but he doesn't like Peyton either. One day he catches her breastfeeding the baby and Peyton has to get rid of him. She hides Emma's underwear in Solomon's tool bike trailer and makes sure Claire finds them. Solomon is released immediately - Emma is desperate. She hates her mother and becomes even closer to Peyton.

One day Claire is supposed to post important work for Michael. On the way, she talks to Peyton and asks about her family, whereupon Peyton claims that her husband was murdered and that the perpetrator was never caught - but she believes that “everyone gets what they deserve”. She steals the envelope from Claire's pocket, rushes to the toilet and tears the letter up in a fit of anger. When Claire discovers that the important letter is missing, she has an asthma attack . In this way, Peyton learns of Claire's illness and can now take advantage of it.

Michael forgives Claire for her supposed sloppiness because he can submit the work again. Claire is distressed and guilty, however, and Peyton suggests that Michael throw a surprise party for Claire to change her mind. Marlene should help him with this.

From then on Michael spends a lot of time with Marlene and uses excuses against Claire, because the planned party should remain a secret. Claire becomes suspicious and Peyton stirs her suspicions by claiming that a man never loses interest in his first love. She steals Marlene's lighter and puts it in Michael's pocket - a cleaning clerk finds it. Claire makes a scene where Michael accuses him of "banging" Marlene. Unfortunately, the surprise party guests are in the next room listening to everything. Marlene leaves the house angry.

While walking with Joe in the park, Peyton meets a mother who admires the baby and explains that the little one has her eyes. From then on, Peyton himself believes that little Joe is her child. When she overhears the Bartel family want to travel without her, she plans a trap for Claire. She opens and manipulates the hinged glass roof of Claire's self-made greenhouse in such a way that it closes without braking when entering the house.

Meanwhile, Marlene finds out who Peyton is. She is supposed to see the vacant house of Dr. Selling Mott and looking at a photo, he discovers a greyhound on the house that Peyton brought for Joe. She sifts through old newspaper articles and recognizes Peyton in a photo of Dr. Mott's funeral. Marlene drives to the Bartels immediately. There she only meets Peyton, speaks to her with Mrs. Mott and asks for Claire. Peyton claims Claire is in the greenhouse. Marlene goes in and is killed by shards of the falling glass roof.

When Claire comes home, she finds Marlene's body and has an asthma attack. Meanwhile, Peyton has emptied her inhalers and left the house with Joe. Claire passes out and goes to the hospital, but is rescued. After her release, Claire learns from Marlene's staff that Marlene wanted to speak to her before she died. They show her Dr. Mott's house. Claire drives to the house and poses as a potential buyer. The realtor lets you view the house. Claire finds a finished nursery that looks like Joe's, and also a breast pump. She realizes that Peyton used this to keep her milk production going and that she was able to breastfeed Joe.

Arriving home, Claire hits Peyton in the face and throws her out of the house. Michael initially thinks it is an exaggeration to alert the police, but Claire makes it clear to him that the trap in the greenhouse was intended for her. Meanwhile, Peyton has snuck back inside to get the children. A dramatic showdown ensues in the course of which Claire outwits Peyton with a fake asthma attack and pushes her out the window. Peyton falls and dies. Claire looks down at her sadly and seems to feel sorry for her. Solomon, who had previously intervened protectively in the argument, receives permission from Claire to hold little Joe, although he is said to be unable to handle children. She now has confidence in him.


The lexicon of international films saw a "failed psychological thriller, whose home-made suspense elements cause less horror than involuntary comedy". There was also criticism of “hackneyed violent effects”.

Cinema found the film to be "devilishly exciting", although the story was overdone.

Prisma described the film as a “top-class psychological thriller, the tension of which increases steadily to the explosive end”. The portrayal of Rebecca de Mornay was highlighted, who played "the murderous nanny with such provocative amiability", "that the captivated viewer sometimes almost catches his breath". The shortcoming of the film is the "richly outrageous story".


  • Rebecca De Mornay won the MTV Movie Award in 1992 and was nominated for this award in another category.
  • The film won three awards from the Cognac Festival du Film Policier in 1992 : two for Curtis Hanson and one for Rebecca De Mornay.
  • Rebecca De Mornay, Julianne Moore and the film for Best Horror Film were nominated for the Saturn Award in 1993.
  • Madeline Zima was nominated for the Young Artist Award in 1993.
  • Graeme Revell won the ASCAP Award in 1993 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. The hand on the cradle. In: Lexicon of International Films . Film service , accessed March 2, 2017 .Template: LdiF / Maintenance / Access used 
  2. film review on
  3. Film review on