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We all go a little mad sometimes.
― Norman Bates

Psycho is a 1960 American psychological thriller film, directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins. The film is based on the screenplay by Joseph Stefano, who adapted it from the 1959 novel of the same name by Robert Bloch. The novel was loosely inspired by the crimes of Wisconsin murderer and grave robber Ed Gein, who lived just 40 miles from Bloch.

Both Gein and Psycho's protagonist Norman Bates, were solitary serial killers in isolated rural locations. Both had deceased domineering mothers, and had sealed off one room of their house as a shrine to their mother. Both dressed in women's clothing and had multiple personality disorder. However, there are many differences between the fictional Bates and Ed Gein.

The film is often categorized by multiple sources as a drama, horror, mystery and thriller film. The film was nominated for 4 Academy Awards.


The film depicts the encounter between a secretary, Marion Crane, hiding at a secluded motel after embezzling money from her employer, and the motel's disturbed owner and manager, Norman Bates, and the aftermath of their encounter.


Warning: this text contains details about the plot/ending of the film.

Set in Phoenix, Arizona, Marion Crane steals $40,000 from her employer to marry her boyfriend Sam Loomis, and she flees to Sam's house with the money. Along the way, she trades in her car to evade authorities, and during a storm on the trip, she checks into the isolated Bates Motel. The proprietor, Norman Bates, invites her to dinner at his family house on the hill overlooking the motel. When he leaves to prepare dinner, Marion hears him arguing with his mother, who tells him that she "won't have him bringing in strange, young girls for supper." Norman brings dinner to the motel to eat there instead. The two proceed to have a conversation over dinner, topics ranging from taxidermy to Norman's mother. When Marion suggests that his mother be institutionalized, he gets upset, saying he wants to do so but does not want to abandon her. He compares his life to being in a "trap," and observes that this could apply to many situations. Marion agrees with him, telling him that she "stepped into a private trap [back in Phoenix]." Afterward, Marion returns to her room, where she decides to avoid a similar trap and resolves to return the money. Norman, who has become intrigued with her, watches her undress through a hole in the wall, obscured by a painting. After Marion counts the money, she takes a shower. During the shower, an anonymous female assailant enters the bathroom and stabs her to death. Back at the house, Norman calls out to his mother "Mother! Oh, God, mother! Blood! Blood!" He runs to the motel, where he finds the corpse and is horrified. Norman

Marion crane janet leigh.jpg

presumes his mother killed Marion, so he tries to erase all traces of the crime to protect her. He puts Marion's body and all her possessions, including money hidden in newspaper, into the trunk of her car and sinks it in a nearby swamp.

Sam is contacted by Marion's sister Lila and private detective Milton Arbogast, who was hired by Crane's employer to recover the money. Arbogast traces Marion to the motel and questions Norman, who unconvincingly lies that Marion only stayed for one night. Arbogast wants to question Norman's mother, but Norman refuses to give permission, saying that she is ill. Arbogast calls Lila to update her and tells her he will call again after he questions Norman's mother. Arbogast returns to the house, and proceeds up the staircase. Arbogast is attacked at the top of the stairs by a person who slashes his face with a knife, pushes him down the stairs, and then stabs him to death.

Back at Sam's shop, Lila and Sam are puzzled that Arbogast has not returned for three hours, considering he said it would only be an hour. At the house, in an unseen conversation, Norman confronts his mother and urges her to hide in the fruit cellar, theorizing that more people will come looking for both Marion and Arbogast. She rejects the idea and orders him out of her room, but against her will Norman carries her down to the cellar.

Lila and Sam go visit Deputy Sheriff Al Chambers, who is perplexed to learn that Arbogast saw Norman's mother in the window, as he says "Norman Bates' mother has been dead and buried in Greenlawn Cemetery for the past 10 years." Shocked, Lila and Sam realize that the only way to find out the truth is to go to the motel themselves. Posing as a married couple, Sam and Lila check into the motel and search Marion's room, where they find a scrap of paper stuck in the toilet with "$40,000" written on it. While Sam distracts Norman, Lila sneaks into the house. Sam suspects Norman of killing Marion to get her money, so their conversation begins to get heated. He suggests to Norman that he killed Marion for the money so he could buy a new motel. Realizing Lila is not around, Norman knocks Sam unconscious and rushes to the house. Lila sees him approaching and hides in the cellar where she discovers a woman sitting in a rocking chair with her back to her. Shockingly, it is the semi-preserved and mummified body of Norman's mother. Wearing his mother's clothes and a wig and carrying a knife, Norman enters and tries to attack Lila, but she is rescued by Sam.

Norman Bates' evil grin.

After Norman's arrest, a psychiatrist tells Sam and Lila that Norman's dead mother is living in Norman's psyche as an alternate personality. After the death of Norman's father, the pair lived as if they were the only people in the world. When his mother found a lover, Norman went mad with jealousy and murdered them both. Consumed with guilt, Norman "erased the crime" by bringing his mother back to life in his own mind. He stole her corpse and preserved the body. When he was "Mother", he acted, talked and dressed as she would, and when Norman's own personality felt affection toward another person, namely Marion, the "Mother" side of his mind would become extremely jealous, and it was under the influence of the Mother psyche of Norman's mind that prompted him to kill her. The psychiatrist concludes that the "Mother" personality now has complete control of Norman's mind.

In the final scene, Norman sits in a cell, thinking in "Mother's" voice.

It's sad when a mother has to speak the words that condemn her own son, but I couldn't allow them to believe that I would commit murder. They'll put him away now, as I should have years ago. He was always bad, and in the end, he intended to tell them I killed those girls and that man, as if I could do anything except just sit and stare, like one of his stuffed birds. Well, they know I can't even move a finger, and I won't. I'll just sit here and be quiet, just in case they do suspect me. [pause] They're probably watching me. Well, let them. Let them see what kind of a person I am. I'm not even gonna swat that fly. I hope they are watching. They'll see. They'll see and they'll know, and they'll say, "Why, she wouldn't even harm a fly."

The final shot shows Marion's car being recovered from the swamp.

List of Deaths[]

Name Cause of Death Killer On Screen Notes
Norma Bates's Boyfriend Poisoned Norman No
Norma Bates Poisoned No
Unidentified Girl #1 Unknown Norman Bates (as Mother) No Revealed late in the film
Unidentified Girl #2 Unknown No Revealed late in the film
Marion Crane Stabbed mutiple times. Yes
Detective Milton Arbogast Stabbed multiple times. Yes
  • Cast

  • Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates, the mentally ill young man who operates the Bates Motel.
  • Vera Miles as Lila Crane, Marion's sister who joins Sam Loomis to find out about her sister's murder.
  • Janet Leigh as Marion Crane, the woman who steals $40,000 in cash and is later murdered at the Bates Motel while taking a shower.
  • Martin Balsam as Detective Milton Arbogast, the private investigator hired to solve the disappearance of Marion Crane. He is later murdered in the Bates Mansion.
  • John Gavin as Sam Loomis, the boyfriend of Marion Crane. He later joins her sister Lila to find out about Marion's disappearance.
  • Simon Oakland as Dr. Fred Richmond, the psychiatrist in the county where Bates Motel is located.
  • John McIntire as Sheriff Al Chambers, the local sheriff who lives not far from the Bates Motel.
  • Lurene Tuttle as Mrs. Chambers, the sheriff's wife.
  • Frank Albertson as Tom Cassidy, the wealthy rancher who hands over the $40,000.
  • Patricia Hitchcock as Caroline, Marion Crane's coworker.
  • John Anderson as California Charlie, the car dealer who helps Marion trade in her old car for a new one.
  • Mort Mills as the highway patrolman who questions Marion when he finds her pulled over to the side of the road.
  • Virginia Gregg, Jeanette Nolan, and Paul Jasmin (all uncredited) as the voice of Norma Bates, Norman's deceased mother who frequently takes over his mind completely.
  • Ted Knight plays a police officer in the ending sequence of Psycho.


Psycho initially received positive reviews, but outstanding box office returns prompted a re-review which was overwhelmingly positive and led to four Academy Award nominations. Psycho is now considered one of Hitchcock's best films and is highly praised as a work of cinematic art by international critics. The film spawned two sequels, a prequel, a remake, and a television movie spin-off.


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