Even though it now plays like a Lifetime movie, there’s a special charm to “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle” that still works. Leads Rebecca DeMornay and Annabella Sciorra both deliver knockout performances that transcend the rather thin screenplay, and the movie is expertly edited, slowly building tension until the crackerjack climax. DeMornay has the showy villainous role, vacillating between angelic and sinister from one shot to another, and she’s well-matched by Sciorra, who gives an understated and entirely believable performance. But mostly what stands out the most about this thriller is how many well-realized female characters there are, from the aforementioned co-leads to Julianne Moore to seven-year-old Madeline Zima, giving the movie a specifically female vibe despite being written and directed by a man. It’s a nifty little thriller that still holds up, and has plenty of memorable moments.
Rating: ★★★★ (out of 5)