The Babysitter (1980 film)

This article is about the 1980 television film. For other uses, see The Babysitter.
The Babysitter
Written by Jennifer Miller
Directed by Peter Medak
Starring Patty Duke Astin
William Shatner
Stephanie Zimbalist
John Houseman
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
Executive producer(s) Frank von Zerneck
Producer(s) David Garcia
Cinematography Rexford Metz
Editor(s) Melvin Shapiro
Running time 96 minutes
Production company(s) Filmways Television
Distributor Orion Television
(MGM Television)
Original network ABC
Original release November 28, 1980

The Babysitter is a 1980 American made-for-television thriller drama film directed by Peter Medak and starring Patty Duke Astin, William Shatner and Stephanie Zimbalist about a young girl hired as a live-in nanny who infiltrates and tries to destroy a suburban Seattle family. The film originally premiered as The ABC Friday Night Movie on November 28, 1980.


Dr. Jeff Benedict (William Shatner) and his wife Liz (Patty Duke Astin) have relocated to Seattle from Chicago. They have a 12-year-old daughter Tara (Quinn Cummings), and Liz feels that she needs some help with childcare and housekeeping. She happens to meet an 18-year-old girl named Joanna Redwine (Stephanie Zimbalist). Without consulting her husband, Liz hires Joanna as a live-in nanny. She weans Tara off of TV and engages her in outdoor activities.

The Benedicts' neighbor Doc Lindquist watches Joanna warily one day as she pushes Tara to exhaust herself swimming. At a party, he overhears Joanna tell his grandson Scotty (Wallace) that she had lived in Seattle prior to working for the Benedicts. He points out to Jeff that this story does not match the one that she had told Liz. Doc begins his own quiet investigation into Joanna's background and finds it almost impossible to recreate where she has lived, because of the many foster homes where she had lived and the fact that she is legally an adult.

Liz still is overly stressed and begins to confide in Joanna. She is convinced that Jeff has a mistress in Seattle. She explains that she has not had a drink in a year. Joanna suggests that there is no harm in having a drink.

Liz's drinking quickly spirals out of control. Jeff leaves her at Doc's house during a party. Back at home, Joanna is waiting for Jeff in the master bedroom. She attempts to seduce Jeff, but he asks her to leave. The next day, Joanna tells Liz that Jeff had come into her bedroom when he came home from the party. As Joanna's manipulations start to become more overt, she begins to neglect her duties. She is cross with Tara and stops maintaining the house.

One day, when Joanna, Scotty, and Tara go for a sail, Joanna releases the jib boom into Scotty's head, knocking him unconscious into the water. As Tara pleads for Joanna to help Scotty, she silently sails the boat away from his floating body. Doc urges the police to investigate Scotty's death, but there is no compelling evidence that it is anything other than an accident. Doc's investigation into Joanna grows more urgent, and he finally tracks down her last address.

Meanwhile, as Liz is confined to bedrest, Jeff finally allows himself to be seduced by Joanna. The next day, Joanna serves Tara and Jeff raw, whole beef tongue for dinner. She comes downstairs in Liz's negligee and kisses Jeff, who apologizes for sleeping with her and fires her. He promises to take her to Seattle the next morning and set her up with some money. Meanwhile, Doc arrives at Joanna's last house to find the bodies of three people in the master bedroom wrapped in plastic.

Joanna knocks Jeff out and chases Tara down into the basement. Tara flees back upstairs and tries to wake up a sedated Liz. Joanna grabs a kitchen knife and returns to the bedroom. Jeff wakes up and manages to wrestle the knife out of her hands. Doc arrives with the police as Joanna is finally stopped. The police lead her out of the house and put her in a patrol car. Tara gives Joanna her doll as the movie ends.



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