1990s Dark R-Rated Thriller With Star Trek TNG Icon Being Forgotten By An Entire Generation

By Brian Myers | Updated

the hand that rocks the cradle

John de Lancie has made a career out of being one of the most recognizable character actors of the last several decades. From Breaking Bad to The West Wing, the star lends his talent to shows in such a way that he leaves an indelible mark with even the smallest of roles. Though his biggest following is from his portrayal as Q from Star Trek: The Next Generation, one of his most memorable film performances was from one of the greatest thrillers from the 1990s, The Hand That Rocks the Cradle.

The Assault

the hand that rocks the cradle

The Hand That Rocks the Cradle is the story of the Bartel family and the nightmare that unfolds for them when they unknowingly hire a nanny who is hiding a sinister grudge.

In the beginning of the film, Claire Bartel (Annabella Sciorra) is pregnant with her and her husband Michael’s (Matt McCoy) second child. When she is having a routine exam performed by her new obstetrician Dr. Mott (John de Lancie), the doctor assaults her.

The End Of Dr. Mott

the hand that rocks the cradle

Embarrassed by what happened, Claire confides in her husband. At his insistence, Claire files a complaint with the authorities, which prompts multiple women to do the same. This domino effect makes Dr. Mott’s life take a quick turn and has devastating consequences for his pregnant wife (Rebecca De Mornay).

The Widow’s Revenge

The Hand That Rocks the Cradle sees Dr. Mott on the verge of being charged with his many crimes. With his livelihood evaporating and his freedom on the verge of ending, he commits suicide.

This leaves his widow penniless, as lawsuits have frozen their assets and his life insurance has been voided due to his manner of death.

After Dr. Mott’s widow loses her baby to a miscarriage, she seeks revenge on the woman she blames for her losses. Under the alias Peyton Flanders, Mott’s widow gets hired to be a nanny for Claire and Michael’s young daughter Emma (Madeline Zima) and their newborn baby.

As The Hand That Rocks the Cradle unfolds, “Peyton” is able to win her way into the Bartel family’s good graces, only to use deceptive tactics to destroy their lives.

A Great Conflict

The Hand That Rocks the Cradle is great storytelling that is elevated by career-best performances by Rebecca De Mornay and Annabella Sciorra. The film’s opening has a quick buildup and dramatic payoff as Dr. Mott’s wife loses her baby, segueing into the slow burn that is the remainder of the feature.

De Mornay plays Peyton to such perfection that it’s cringy to watch at times, particularly as it’s clear to audiences (but not Bartel’s) that Peyton is about to unleash a living Hell on her new employers.

Seduction, extortion, physical violence, and masterful gaslighting are all weapons in Petyon’s arsenal and she’ll stop at nothing to get the revenge that she feels that she is owed. De Mornay is able to successfully pull off a wicked character that can pivot from someone harboring horrifically violent intentions to one that is demure and sweet.

The actress might always be remembered for her part in the Tom Cruise film Risky Business, but The Hand That Rocks the Cradle is truly her brightest moment on the big screen.

Stream It Now


Director Curtis Hanson does well in setting the tone of the film from its beginning and successfully carries the film over the hump after its dramatic opening moments into The Hand That Rocks the Cradle‘s build to a climax that is as satisfying as it is violent.

The Hand That Rocks the Cradle isn’t available to stream for free, but you can rent this thriller On Demand through Vudu, Google Play, AppleTV, and Prime.