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Film / Psycho

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"It is absolutely required that you see Psycho from the very beginning!"

"A boy's best friend is his mother."
Norman Bates

Psycho is a 1960 Psychological Thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Among Hitchcock's best-known films, it is also regarded as one of the most important and influential pictures ever made, for reasons which include setting a new benchmark for transgressive content in mainstream American cinema and serving as the Ur-Example for the Slasher Movie genre.note  Hitchcock himself openly acknowledged having taken inspiration from Les Diaboliques, even emulating that film's meta by requesting, in a William Castle-esque ballyhoo, that audiences 1.) be barred from entering the theater after each screening had started, and 2.) avoid spoiling the ending for others.

The story, adapted by Hitchcock and screenwriter Joseph Stefanonote  from the Robert Bloch novel of the same name published the year before, has not one but two major plot twists. At the time, Hitchcock went to considerable lengths to keep them a secret (including one print ad pleading, "Don't give away the ending – it's the only one we have"), but these days, most people already know all about both of them thanks to Pop-Cultural Osmosis, even if they know nothing else about the film, and haven't read the book (which has the same plot twists).

Psycho starts out as a Film Noir-style crime thriller centering around Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), a secretary at a Phoenix real estate office who embezzles a large amount of cash from her employer's clientnote  and sets off for Fairvale, California, where she plans to hook up with her lover and begin a new life. After two days of driving – plus an unnerving encounter with a highway patrolman and a hasty exchange of cars – she stops for the night at the desolate, out-of-the-way Bates Motel, run by nervous Momma's Boy Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), who lives with his elderly but domineering mother in an ominous Victorian house behind the motel.

After the first of the aforementioned twistsspoiler!  – revealed in the film's best-known and most often referenced/parodied scene – Psycho switches gears to become something more along the lines of a combination mystery and psychological horror story, although still retaining a few noir elements. The rest of the movie follows the investigation into the events of the first twist, first by a private detective (Martin Balsam) hired to recover the money from Marion, and then by her her sister (Vera Miles) and lover (John Gavin).

Being such a popular movie, Psycho naturally spawned sequels – three of them, in fact (one being made for TV):

Although their reputations are far less ubiquitous than the original, and grew increasingly mixed as the series went on, all of the sequels feature Anthony Perkins reprising his role, with him even directing Psycho III.

Further additions to the Psycho franchise include Bates Motel, a 1987 TV movie Spin-Off revolving around a man named Alex (Bud Cort) who'd befriended Norman while being institutionalized with him, and a series of rides; The Psycho Path Maze, a haunted house based on the movie held by Universal Studios' Halloween Horror Nights in 1993 and 1994, featuring props from the filming of Psycho IV; two subsequent haunted houses, Psycho: Through the Mind of Norman Bates in 1999 and Psycho Path: The Return of Norman Bates in 2006; the 2012 biopic Hitchcock, based on Stephen Rebello's non-fiction book Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho, which deals with the film's production; Bates Motel (no relation to the film), a TV series that serves as a prequel to the story (albeit set in the modern day); and, well, one other adaptation...

In 1998, Gus Van Sant directed a nearly Shot for Shot Remake of the original starring Vince Vaughn as Norman and Anne Heche as Marion. To the extent that it was the same as Hitchcock's original, it was widely seen as pointless, and to the extent that it was different (with probably the most notable differences being a brief scene with Norman masturbating and a gratuitous shot of Viggo Mortensen's butt), it was widely seen as inferior. In Van Sant's own words, he did it "so no one else would have to". The remake has its own page here.

Psycho is the Trope Maker for:

This film provides examples of:

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  • Abusive Parents: Mrs. Bates inflicted awful emotional abuse on her son, Norman. First of all, she cut him off from all other society throughout childhood, making him utterly dependent on her. All the while, she tells him that sex is evil and dirty, and that women are whores (except her). She then abandons him at age 12 when she finds a boyfriend. Unable to deal with the loss of his one companion, Norman murders them both. Wracked with guilt afterwards, his Dissociative Identity Disorder is triggered, occasionally taking on her personality to deal with his guilt and grief. Unfortunately, even the internalized Mrs. Bates is emotionally abusive, and Norman is riddled with anxieties over his sexuality and still smothered by his domineering mother.
  • Accidental Hero: Marion, a posthumous example. By stealing the money, she set off the chain of events that exposed Norman’s murderous antics.
  • Acoustic License: From the motel, Marion probably wouldn't be able to hear Norman arguing with his mother in the Bates house (particularly not during a heavy rain shower).
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: In the novel, Norman is middle-aged, overweight, balding, bespectacled, and a drinker. In the film, he is much younger and better-looking and your basic "boy next door" type.note  Hitchcock and screenwriter Joseph Stefano felt the book's Norman Bates was too unlikable; making him better-looking made him slightly more sympathetic to the audience. It also makes what's coming more jarring. Norman of the movie initially comes off as more sweet and lonely than creepy or threatening, even with regards to his hobby of taxidermy. (He himself says it's too much, but all he has.)
  • Adaptational Badass: In the 1960 film, Lila freezes in shock seeing that Norman is the true killer. In the 1998 remake, Lila incapacitated Norman by delivering a kick to his head while Sam Loomis stops him.
  • Adaptation Distillation: The novel starts with Norman and mother arguing, with Mary arriving at the motel in the next chapter. This is cut from the movie, which starts out with Marion and Sam post-tryst.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: The dark-haired Mary of the novel becomes the blonde Marion of the film.
  • Adaptation Name Change: Marion is named Mary in the novel.
  • Advertising Campaigns: In a campaign considered unusual for the average movie, signs and trailers reminded people not to come in late to Psycho. Hitchcock commissioned these to make sure everyone got a chance to see Janet Leigh's scenes, and they also ensured that viewers would not miss any important plot information. Previous Hitchcock movies then became re-released with ads reminding moviegoers to see each from its beginning.
  • After-Action Villain Analysis: The film ends with a wrap-up where the psychiatrist tells everyone (including the audience) Norman's situation.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: It's difficult not to feel sorry for Norman. After all, he was warped by a very twisted and abusive upbringing and the murders were really not done out of malice on his part. Indeed, Norman is horrified by his mother's actions but is powerless to stop her, being completely dominated by her and unaware that they are the same person.
  • Alone with the Psycho: The scene where Norman and Marion have dinner — in retrospect, at least. Although it's notable how Norman, who seemed so harmless, starts to come off as creepy in this scene.
  • And Starring: "And Janet Leigh as Marion Crane."
  • Animal Motifs: Specifically, bird motifs — the stuffed birds in the parlor and bird pictures in the motel room, Norman compares himself and Marion to caged birds, during Norman and Marion's long conversation in the parlor they are surrounded by his stuffed birds (especially the owl that looms over the duo), he notes that she eats "like a bird", Marion's surname is Crane and her robbery takes place in Phoenix, Norman eats candy corn in a birdlike manner. Even the trademark "Psycho" Strings (see below) are reminiscent of a bird's calls.
  • Anti-Climax: The scene in which the audience finds out the truth about Norman's mother forms an effective climax to the film, but the scene immediately following it (in which the psychologist details every aspect of Norman's psychosis in exhaustive detail) has been described as "an anticlimax taken almost to the point of parody".
  • Anti-Hero: Marion steals $40,000, but the man she steals from isn't the nicest fellow.
  • Anyone Can Die: Played straight and averted. Considering how genuinely terrifying Marion's death is, and how unexpected it is when it comes, it's surprising to discover that there's only one other casualty for the rest of the movie. Hitchcock reels you in twice with this trope.
  • Art Imitates Art: The Bates house was inspired by Edward Hopper's painting The House by the Railroad, which depicts the Second Empire Victorian home at 18 Conger Avenue in Haverstraw, New York.
  • Artistic Title: Courtesy of Saul Bass. Lines slide across the screen, bringing up and pushing away peoples' names. Watch here.
  • Asshole Victim: Mr. Cassidy is a leering bore who brags about evading taxes, to the point that almost the entirety of his time in the film seems designed to give the audience reasons to side with Marion when she steals his $40,000.
  • Author Appeal: Janet Leigh, one in a long line of blonde leads for Hitchcock.
  • Bait-and-Switch Comment: Marion, nervous and paranoid from her encounter with the police officer that morning, pulls into California Charlie's used car lot and starts looking over the vehicles for sale. Then the dealer comes up behind her...
    Charlie: I'm in no mood for trouble.
    Marion: [startled] What?
    Charlie: There's an old saying: "First customer of the day is always trouble." But, like I say, I'm in no mood for it, so I'm gonna treat you so fair and square that you won't have one human reason...
  • Beneath the Mask: Everyone. Marion, the hard working secretary who isn't. And Norman, of course. He seems sweet and timid but what psychosis and a murderous alternate personality lies underneath.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Part of what makes the movie so effective.
  • Big Bad: Norman Bates. He ranges anywhere from Villain Protagonist to Anti-Hero throughout the series.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Norman Bates is arrested and put in a jail cell, but Marion is still dead and the money she stole is completely lost.
  • Black Blood: Hitchcock famously shot the film in black and white, specifically so he could use chocolate syrup to represent blood in the shower scene.
  • Black Bra and Panties: After Marion has decided to steal her employer's money, she is shown changing her white bra and half-slip (her panties are never shown) to black ones. This symbolizes her fall from grace, using the common stereotype of "bad girls wear black underwear".
  • Blood Is Squicker in Water: The shower scene ends with bloodied water going down the drain. It was made possible with chocolate syrup. An inversion of this is also why the movie is in Black and White, since Hitchcock felt that "pink wasn't scary".
  • Bowdlerise: While the shower scene is hardly tame, it's still toned down from its corresponding scene in the book, where Marion is decapitated.
    "…started to scream, and then the curtains parted further and a hand appeared, holding a butcher’s knife. It was the knife that, a moment later, cut off her scream. And her head."
  • Break the Cutie: Marion. Her death comes after a conversation with Norman convinces her to go back and turn in the money. Also Norman, of course. It's also heavily implied that his mother's abuse did this to Norman, and made completely explicit in the sequels.
  • Camping a Crapper: The film showed a toilet on film for the first time since before The Hays Code...followed shortly by the infamous shower scene.
  • Carpet-Rolled Corpse: Shower curtain rather, but the concept still applies.
  • Cast as a Mask: Anthony Perkins doesn't appear as Mrs. Bates until the very end of the film. Up until that point, the role was assumed by several different actors.
  • Censor Decoy:
    • Hitchcock put a shot of Marion Crane's buttocks in his original cut so the censors would let him keep a plot-important scene of a flushed toilet, which at the time would not have been allowed to be shown on film.
    • Among the many taboo-breakers that Hitchcock accomplished in Psycho, completely overlooked and forgotten today is the quick glimpse of Marion's navel during the shower stabbings. The showing of women's navels was still absolutely forbidden in American films and television at the time, so Janet Leigh's was still covered in all her lingerie scenes and the film's promotional images.note  The whole shower scene being such a shock prevented censors from even noticing the glimpse of navel.
  • Central Theme: Expressed by Norman during one of his more lucid moments, in conversation with Marion.
    Norman Bates: I think that we're all in our private traps, clamped in them, and none of us can ever get out. We scratch and we claw, but only at the air, only at each other, and for all of it, we never budge an inch.
  • Chair Reveal: The famous scene in which Lila spins around Mother's chair to reveal a mummified corpse.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Norman Bates, amateur taxidermist. The scene establishing that Norman stuff birds both establishes him as kind of creepy when he previously was more Adorkable, but also sets up the reveal with the mummified corpse of Mother at the end.
    Marion: A man should have a hobby.
    Norman: Well, it's, it's more than a hobby. A hobby's supposed to pass the time, not fill it.
    Marion: Is your time so empty? [...] Do you go out with friends?
    Norman: Well, a boy's best friend is his mother.
  • Colliding Criminal Conspiracies: Marion fleeing with some stolen cash and ending up dead.
  • Cold Ham: As the psychiatrist, Simon Oakland keeps a calm tone of voice, but takes the rather clunky, overwritten monologue and milks it for all it's worth, with dramatic pauses and emphasis on certain words and phrases.
  • Comic-Book Adaptation: A three-issue one by Innovation Publishing.
  • Cool Car: The '57 Ford Custom 300 Fordor that Marion buys from California Charlie.
  • Creator Cameo: As with all Hitchcock films. He's standing outside the office where Marion works, wearing a cowboy hat. He was very careful about the placement of this; his cameos were well-known by then, and he knew that people would be looking for him. He also knew that showing up any later in the movie would disrupt the mood he was going for, so it had to be right at the beginning. Gus Van Sant pops up in the same location in the remake, along with a Hitchcock lookalike, wearing the same hat (and, apparently, berating him).
  • Creepy Basement: Super creepy, lit by a bare bulb hanging from the ceiling, as Lila finds out the truth about Mother.
  • Creepy Crows: In the 1998 remake, Norman hides Mother in the fruit cellar, which is also an aviary filled with creepy crows.
  • Creepy Crossdresser: Probably Trope Codifier. But he doesn't do it intentionally.
  • Crossdressing Voices: A disturbing example. Norman speaks with his regular voice and then sometimes switches to a higher feminine pitch identical to his mother's to speak as her and speak for her.
  • Cult Soundtrack: Most films by Hitchcock are memorable for Bernard Herrmann's music, but this one in particular has become a Pop-Cultural Osmosis in the sense that many people recognize the famous "shower stabbing" violins from the countless parodies.
  • Cute and Psycho: Norman has very cute mannerisms and verbal tics (nibbling candy, giggling, stuttering, saying "sorry" and "gee") and his boy-next-door looks don't hurt anything, but none of it changes the fact that he's pretty much out of his mind.
  • Dark Comedy: Alfred Hitchcock considered Psycho to be this.
  • Dead All Along: Lila finally manages to confront Norman's mother in the basement of the Bates' home, only to discover she is nothing but a decayed corpse.
  • Dead-Hand Shot: The famous shot of Marion's hand flopping down onto the bathroom floor as she falls over dead.
  • Dead Star Walking: One of the earliest examples of this trope, and maybe the most famous. Marion Crane is the central character and Janet Leigh is the star—until she gets offed completely out of nowhere about forty-eight minutes into the movie, and the film becomes something very different.
  • Deathly Dies Irae: A repeating, backwards variation on dies irae plays as Marion is looking around her room in the Bates Motel, exploring the place where she will meet her end.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Marion is certainly the all-time most famous example, if not the Trope Maker. After Marion is killed, Norman becomes the film's real protagonist. It was for this reason that late admissions to the theater were not allowed, as audience members who showed up just for Janet Leigh might feel cheated if they never got a chance to see her before she got killed off.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: Allegedly to save time and money on special effects, as they could use chocolate syrup rather than having to mix up a batch of Kensington Gore. Hitchcock also said that in color, the fake blood going down the drain would be pink, and pink is not scary. Another rumor is that color would have made the murder scene too gory, which would have pulled viewers out of the narrative. Probably the bigger contributor is that Hitchcock wanted to make the film with a lower budget; Paramount didn't want to do Psycho due to its content, so Hitchcock financed the film himself, bringing the budget down by using the crew from his TV series to shoot the film. This also included shooting in black-and-white, since color film was still very expensive in 1960. The opportunity for better blood effects was coincidental.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: At the end, on the window of an office in the police station.
    "Office Of Deputy District Attorney. Alan Deats, Deputy District Attorney."
  • Developing Doomed Characters: Audiences were led to believe that the film was all about Marion Crane...until she had that unfortunate incident in the shower.
  • Did I Mention It's Christmas?: The film begins on "Friday, December the Eleventh" according to an onscreen graphic during the opening shot, and Christmas decorations can be seen in downtown Phoenix as Marion leaves town. However, no further allusion to the holiday is made although the film's narrative extends later into the month. (To be fair, this was not intentional. The film crew noticed after filming that decorations were up, and decided to superimpose a December date to make it work.)
  • Dies Wide Open: Marion Crane, as revealed in the incredibly chilling shot that ends the shower scene.
  • Digging Yourself Deeper: Norman does this in his dinner conversation with Marion, comparing her to a bird because birds eat a lot. He also reveals more than he intends in his conversation with Arbogast.
  • Dirty Old Man: Cassidy, well into his 60s, casually tries to flirt with 22-year-old Marion. The fact that a man his age has a teenage daughter also implies he likes them young.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: Think Arbogast will be the one to crack the case and expose Norman and his mother? Wrong.
  • Disposing of a Body: Norman uses the in-a-trunk-in-a-car-in-a-lake variant.
  • Do Not Spoil This Ending: In 1960, at least. But at the time it was common to go to a movie halfway through and watch the rest with the next run. This one was set up so you had to watch it front to back. A few years later this would catch on with all movies. Unlike Les Diaboliques, however, it was more of a William Castle stunt by Hitchcock than the usual version of the trope.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Some film analysts agree that the shower scene is actually depicting a rape—knife=penis, stabbing=penetration, blood spatter=ejaculation.
  • Driving a Desk: For Marion's driving scenes, to get her proper actions and facial expressions, Alfred Hitchcock articulated to Janet Leigh what she was doing and thinking at every point in her flight from justice. Later on, cutaway views of the windshield and rear view mirror, road sounds, and voice overs from the other actors, were cut into the film, establishing these stimuli for the audience
  • Drop Dead Gorgeous: Marion is slashed to death while taking a shower. Camera angles and fast cutting give the impression of a naked body, though no actual nudity is shown.

  • Entertainingly Wrong: After talking with Lila and Sam, the Fairvale sheriff comes to an entirely reasonable conclusion based on what he knows: to wit, that Arbogast got a lead on the money and told the pair a bullshit story to throw them off the scent. He just happens to be wrong because he has no way to know just how insane Norman really is.
  • Epic Tracking Shot: The opening shot was meant to be one, with the camera panning through the city until it entered the hotel room Marion was having her affair in. It proved impossible to do with the technology of the time, so Hitchcock used a series of cuts to achieve a similar effect. Hitchcock later succeeded in opening Frenzy with a similar shot.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Although Bates probably wouldn't be so bad if he could get out of the psychological hold she's inflicted onto him since he was a young child.
  • Evil Costume Switch: Downplayed. Marion changes from white lingerie and a light-colored dress to black lingerie and a darker dress after deciding to embezzle the money.
  • Evil Matriarch: Norma Bates is cruel, abusive, and murderous.
  • Expy Coexistence: At one point in the epilogue of the novel, Bates is compared to Ed Gein, the real-life Serial Killer who inspired Robert Bloch to write it.
  • Extremely Protective Child: Norman Bates is arguably one of the most disturbing villainous examples ever to his mother, My Beloved Smother Norma, to whom he's The Caretaker. One interpretation of his murder of Marion is that he does it because she criticizes and mildly insults his dead, abusive mother. Although he didn't know that.
  • Eye Open: One of the more disturbing ones in cinema history, as Hitchcock cuts to a tight closeup of Marion's dead, staring eye before a spiraling zoom out from her face.
  • The Faceless: Mother Bates, until the climax of the film.
  • Face-Revealing Turn: A particularly ghastly version of this trope forms The Reveal when Lila finds Mother in the basement.
  • Fake-Out Opening: At the behest of Alfred Hitchcock himself, audiences were not allowed to enter theatres after the film began, as to not spoil the twists. One of which being the fact that the character we spend the entire first part of the film with is replaced with an entirely new one, despite the fact Janet Leigh was promoted as the star on all the advertising.
  • Fan Disservice: The shower scene. Marion's nudity and vulnerability make the scene all the more terrifying.
  • Fanservice:
    • The shower scene starts as this before the killing happens (which turns it into Fan Disservice).
    • The iconic hotel room scenes with Marion in her bra and half-slip look quite tame by today's standards but were very risqué when the film was made.
    • The opening sequence showing a half-dressed Marion and her lover post-coital at a motel.
  • Female Misogynist: Mrs. Bates raised Norman to hate and fear women who weren't her.
  • Film Noir: The first half of the movie, anyway.
  • The Film of the Book: Robert Bloch's novel was published in 1959, and Hitchcock's film sticks very closely to its plot. In the novel the conversation between Marion ("Mary" in the book) and Norman actually takes place in the house. Also, the suggestion in the film that Norman is a Serial Killer is absent from the book, in which the murder of Mary Crane seems to be a first. The novel also has long sections of Norman's Inner Monologue as well as more conversations between him and Mother.
  • Final Girl: The film is considered to be an Ur-Example of a slasher film. While not a perfect fit of the Final Girl that has become conventional in later years, Lila can be considered a prototype since she is the one who investigates her sister's disappearance and survives her confrontation with the killer, albeit not by her own doing.
  • Finally Found the Body: Aside from Marion and Arbogast, implied regarding the two unsolved missing persons cases mentioned by the psychiatrist during his monologue.
  • Flush the Evidence: This film famously became the first film in history to feature a toilet flushing for including a scene where Marian tears up an incriminating note and flushes away the scraps.
  • FootFocus. Once Marion dies the camera slowly pans over her dead bare feet for 7 seconds straight with her blood flowing past them into the drain.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • A lot of Norman's more blackly comic lines ("She isn't quite herself today", "A boy's best friend is his mother", and "Living with an invalid, it's practically like living alone") and his rambling monologue about mental hospitals take on a much greater significance once you know the ending.
    • While he's explaining his taxidermy hobby, Norman mentions he prefers birds as his subjects, as they're more docile, easier to catch. This while he's speaking with Marion Crane.
    • Also in that scene he mentions that his mother is as harmless as one of his stuffed birds.
    • One of Marion's lines ("They also pay who meet in hotel rooms") in the opening scene foreshadows the eventual setting of the film.
    • When Marion is packing to leave Phoenix with the money, her bathtub and shower are prominently visible in the background.
    • There are two mentions of mothers early on, from Marion and Caroline, foreshadowing that as a theme.
    • Norman has some fairly feminine affectations, the most prominent being the way his hips swing when he goes upstairs to fetch mother.
    • The Dead Star Walking trope is foreshadowed in the credits itself where Janet Leigh gets an And Starring credit.
    • When Sam and Lila question Deputy Sheriff Al Chambers about Norman's mother, Chambers replies that Mrs. Bates died ten years ago and further notes that she committed suicide. Chambers turns out to be Right for the Wrong Reasons; while Mrs. Bates is indeed dead, she didn't die by suicide.
    • Norman clearly deliberately chooses Cabin 1 for Marion and later spies on her as she undresses. Even if he wasn't the killer, we're already getting the first hints that he isn't the nice guy he's presented as.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus:
    • When Norman turns Marion's body over and drags her across the bathroom floor, her left hand and arm are covered with blood, while her right appear mostly clean of blood.note 
    • While Perkins drags Marion's body out from the bathtub, the strap of a panty can be glimpsed on the hip of the body double (Marli Renfro).
    • "Mother" seems awfully tall and strong in comparison to the small and frail woman Norman carries out of her room.
    • When Norman's sitting in jail and it fades to the car being pulled from the swamp, there's a brief flash of his face becoming his mother's skull.
  • Freudian Excuse: And how! There's a whole speech at the end explaining the Hollywood Psych behind the plot.
  • Freudian Slip: Norman stumbles on the word "falsity" because it sounds like "phallus".
    Norman: You know, I heard the phrase 'eats like a bird' is actually a fa— fal— f— uh, falsity.
  • Funny Background Event: When Marion tells her boss she plans to spend the weekend in "bed," Cassidy's reaction is one of lewd amusement. Given the kind of fellow he is, he clearly didn't think she meant rest.
  • Futile Hand Reach: This is the only thing the completely helpless Marion can do as she's repeatedly slashed. Remarkably after the first slash, she managed to grasp the knife arm and momentarily struggled to fend away the knife. In her final dying moments, Marion does a Last Grasp at Life hand reach for the shower curtain.
  • Genre Shift: Typical Hitchcock film: crime thriller, anti-heroine steals a wad of cash and goes on the run. First act ends with her pulling into a roadside motel for the night—and then a huge Gut Punch as the film turns into a dark and violent psychodrama.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Towards the end of the shower scene, when Marion reaches out and grabs the shower curtain, the naked breasts of body double Marli Renfro are visible in the background out of focus, in violation of Section VI.1 of the Hays Code. (Picture here, possibly NSFW).
    • While the murder scene is already "crap", most film analysts agree that it's actually depicting a rape—the phallic silhouette of the knife, the ejaculatory spurts of blood, etc.
  • Giggling Villain: Norman can rarely get through a sentence without a cute little nervous giggle. The tic seems to disappear as soon as he goes into full-blown psycho mode, though. He also smiles after managing to shoo Arbogast away.
  • Gollum Made Me Do It: Norman's a nice guy, it was Mother!
  • Gory Discretion Shot:
    • During the shower scene, only two times is the knife ever seen touching the victim (and in both cases, never penetrates flesh), and otherwise, at no point does the knife, killer, or victim ever appear in the same frame. All violence is implied by the moving knife, the victim's screams, and the final shot of blood circling down the drain.
    • Aside from when she slashes his face, we don't see Mother kill Arbogast either, just her hand with the knife coming down and his scream.
  • Guilt Complex: Marion is wracked with guilt over stealing the money almost immediately and her conversation with Norman in the parlor seems to convince her to drive back to Phoenix to return it.
  • Gut Punch: The shower sequence is possibly the single most famous example ever.
  • Halfway Plot Switch: Hitchcock did this intentionally, to misdirect and upset the audience. The first part of the film focuses on Marion's fleeing with the stolen money and her interaction with Norman. The shower murder that triggers the latter part of the plot comes at the 49-minute mark (with exactly an hour left to go in the film). It's probably one of the best in cinema history, since most people who haven't seen the movie assume the death is the climax... something Hitchcock counted on with his promotions.
  • Hand of Death: A hand wielding a knife in two murder scenes.
  • Hand Sliding Down the Glass: This is played with in Marion's death, first with her hand raking down the shower wall, and then the final image of her hand dragging down the shower curtain.
  • Hell Hotel: Codified the "roadside motel with creepy owner" variation.
  • Hero Antagonist:
    • Lila Crane and Sam Loomis, trying to find out what happened to Marion.
    • Milton Arbogast, a private detective hired to track down Marion and the money she stole.
  • Hey, Wait!: Marion starts to drive away from California Charlie's without her suitcase from her old car.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: Marion hides the stolen money by taking it out of the envelope she carried it up to the Bates Motel in, wrapping it in a newspaper she bought earlier and just putting it down on top of the cabinet.
  • Hollywood Darkness: The film has some day-for-night shots, particularly the sequence where Norman is getting rid of Marion's body and her car (the shadows are very sharp).
  • I Didn't Mean to Turn You On: Played for Drama. Whenever Norman feels attracted to a woman staying at his motel, his mother eventually discovers it and decides to Murder the Hypotenuse, even if said woman never intended to gain her son's interest.
  • Immediate Self-Contradiction: Norman has a habit of doing this, which makes him a strangely Bad Liar for someone who has a lot to hide.
    Norman: [regarding his mother's abuse] I don't mind it anymore.
    Marion: Oh, but you should. You should mind it.
    Norman: I do, but I say I don't.
  • Info Dump: The original film features a long one in the penultimate scene, filling in one or two things that weren't made entirely clear earlier, but otherwise just telling the audience stuff they already know. About the one thing that everyone agreed the 1998 remake improved on was that it trimmed the scene down to just a few lines.
  • In Medias Res: The second chapter of the book features Mary arriving at the motel, with her backstory explained in a few pages.
  • Innocently Insensitive: It seems like Norman is going to run into this, especially once he starts asking Marion about "what [she's] running away from," but she seems strangely tolerant of it. A moment later, when she asks why Norman doesn't send his delusional old mother to an institution, he does not extend her the same courtesy.
    Marion: I am sorry. I only felt... it seems she's hurting you. I meant well.
    Norman: People always "mean well"! They cluck their thick tongues, and shake their heads, and suggest oh, so very delicately.
  • Inn of No Return: The Bates Motel is arguably the definitive example.
  • Insane Equals Violent: Norman seems harmlessly socially awkward at first, but he is gradually revealed to be a dissociating murderer.
  • Intimate Open Shirt: Sam begins the scene shirtless and by the end is like this, as he wants to continue their raunchy hotel antics whereas Marion wants to go back to work.
  • Irony:
    • Marion survives sleeping in her car along the side the of road, a situation ripe for potential robbery, rape, and/or murder. The cop chastises her for this, telling her she would have been safer in a motel. She stays in one the next night and is stabbed to death.
    • Soon after Marion's murder scene, we're taken to Sam's hardware store, where a customer examines a can of insecticide:
      Customer: They tell you what its ingredients are, and how it's guaranteed to exterminate every insect in the world. But they do not tell you whether or not it's painless. And I say, insect or man, death should always be painless.
    • "Mother" claims that she wouldn't hurt a fly—but had no problem with killing Marion and the others.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Arbogast is somewhat gruff and rough-around-the-edges, but he shows nothing but sympathy to Lila and informs her and Loomis about his progress in tracking Marion with no ulterior motive.
  • Jump Scare: Arbogast's death scene. Even before it happens it's apprehensive and the atmosphere is tense, then the strings start up as "Mrs. Bates" blindsides the poor sap out of nowhere.
  • Kensington Gore: Chocolate syrup variety.
  • Kubrick Stare:
    • Norman gives a particularly unnerving stare directly at the audience in the last scene, making this a possible Trope Maker, if not Ur-Example. Made even creepier by Norman's Slasher Smile and the fact that in the last few frames his face is superimposed with that of his mother's skull.
    • Norman also gives one while standing at the swamp's edge after sinking Arbogast's car as he hears Sam calling for him, indicating that he's becoming thoroughly fed up with covering for his "mother".
  • Kuleshov Effect: The shower scene is often used as an example of this trope. After watching it, everyone immediately understands that Janet Leigh's character has been stabbed to death, but if you slow it down, only three frames actually show a knife piercing human flesh (this is fast enough to count as subliminal messaging). The audience's understanding of what has taken place comes entirely from the way the images and sound are arranged, not from the actual content.
  • Large Ham: Mr. Cassidy and the psychiatrist, in-universe as well as out.
  • Last Grasp at Life: Different variant of this trope; the last movement of life the dying Marion is able to do with her final fading strength is reaching out her hand and grasping the shower curtain, before she slumps dead.
  • Laughing Mad: Norman occasionally laughs at inappropriate points during his dinner with Marion. He also lurches from laughter to complete seriousness a couple of times, which is equally scary. Downplayed in that it's a nervous chuckle rather than a full-lunged hysterical laugh.
  • Line-of-Sight Name: While filling the registration book at the motel, Marion puts down her residence as Los Angeles, after looking at a copy of the Los Angeles Times.
  • Lingerie Scene: Marion is seen in her bra and half-slip when getting ready for bed, which was considered very risqué for the time. In a later scene, after she has decided to run away with her employer's money, she is shown in lingerie again when getting dressed. There is some colour symbolism as well: in the first scene her bra and slip are white, and in the second they are black.
  • The Loins Sleep Tonight: In the novel, Norman mentions having a "terrible feeling" when dining with Mary (as she's called in the book). He comes up with the correct word a few sentences later, taunting himself about it. Is it any wonder that the knife is a phallic substitute and the murder symbolizes a rape that he can't carry out?
    "Im something. Importance? No, he didn't feel important when he was with a woman. Impossible? No, that wasn't right either."
  • Loners Are Freaks: Norman Bates certainly qualifies, although of course he has 'Mother' to keep him company.
  • MacGuffin: The stolen money is just a motivational element for the lead character to run away and wind up at the motel. Unlike most Hitchcock movies, however, the motivation's not the apparent one. It's the red herring that helps set up the Halfway Plot Switch's effectiveness, since Bates is clearly broke. That Marion died was an open secret that everyone knew about, so the revelation that Marion intended to return the cash felt to them like Norman or his mother were going to find out and kill her over it. Hitchcock played to audience expectations, then crushed them an hour early. The end result is that the movie first-time watchers expect is thrown out the window less than halfway through the running time, and nobody knows what to expect next.
  • Male Gaze: The film's first half could be summed up as being about Marion's body; emphasizing her in lingerie (heavily used in posters and promotionals), inviting viewers to join Norman at peeping at her undressing, and gazing at her body from the moment Marion removes her robe and during the shower scene and as Norman removes her from the bathroom and dumps Marion into the car trunk. Even though, for the most part, viewers are denied seeing nudity or the knife violence done on her.
  • Malignant Plot Tumor: Many people forget that the first half hour is a heist plot involving Marion Crane embezzling money from her boss and making her escape. The entire plotline is completely abandoned once she's murdered partway through the film. The emphasis then transfers over to Norman Bates and how he's eventually captured.
  • Masturbation Means Sexual Frustration: Implied. When Norman is staring at Marion through the peephole, something is causing his body to shake. We also see Norman go in to stare at the dead Marion, then later see him leave the room and wipe his hand on his shirt.
  • Match Cut: The shower drain to Marion's eye.
  • Matricide: Norman Bates is one of the most iconic modern examples. His mother Norma sheltered him extensively after the death of her husband, not letting him have friends or leave her side, making Norman form a codependent attachment. When she found a new paramour, Norman murdered his mother out of desperation and jealousy/rage, causing him to develop a second personality modelled after her to conceal this crime from himself.
  • Mirror Scare: Subverted. While searching the Bates house, Lila is startled by her own double reflection in a pair of mirrors in Norman's mother's room.
  • Momma's Boy: Norman Bates must be the creepiest and most dominated example of this in film history. Even though he killed his mother, she still dominates him from beyond the grave.
  • Motive Misidentification: When Lila and Sam become convinced that both Marion and Arbogast were both killed at the Bates Hotel, they're sure that Norman Bates robbed Marion and then covered it up. In reality, of course, Norman is just crazy and never even knew about the money that Marion had.
  • Mr. Exposition: Dr. Richmond, a One-Scene Wonder whose only purpose in the film is to give a lengthy explanation of Norman's mental illness to both the other characters and the audience.
  • Multi-Gendered Split Personalities: In the famous twist ending it turns out that Norman Bates' mother is long since dead, but Norman has a split personality who acts as his mother. Even more creepily, we actually hear Norman talk in her voice inside his head near the end of the film.
  • Mummies at the Dinner Table: Norman keeps his mother's corpse in the master bedroom, occasionally taking her to the basement when someone comes to the house.
  • My Beloved Smother: The relationship Norman has with his domineering mother, as he covers up for her. Then we find out the trope still holds true - but from beyond the grave.
  • Mythology Gag: In the remake, Lila finds pornographic magazines in Norman's room. While this is possible onscreen in 1998 whereas it wasn't when the original was filmed, that's what she finds in the corresponding scene in the novel.

  • Never My Fault: During Marion's imaginary argument between her boss and Cassidy over the money she stole, Lowery refuses to take responsibility for the loss, especially considering the actual argument they had over such a large cash job.
  • No-Tell Motel: Not the Bates Motel, but the place where Marion and Sam have met for a tryst in the opening scene.
  • Nobody Poops: Averted; this was the first American movie of The Hays Code era to show a toilet, thereby implying people have to use it. This was Serious Business at the time, no pun intended.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: There is extremely little explicit horror content in the film. It was made by The Master of Suspense himself, after all.
  • Nothing Is the Same Anymore: Marion's death completely changes the plot from a thief on the run to a serial killer at a motel.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Marion's boss, passing on the crosswalk in front of her as she's stopped at a red light while driving out of town, turns and nods at her before doing a Double Take as Marion nervously waves back. (She's supposed to be at home with a pounding headache after leaving work early.)
    • Marion again, when she's at the car dealership and suddenly notices the same highway patrolman she'd encountered that morning parked across the street, standing outside his cruiser and watching her.
    • Arbogast clearly gets a moment of this when "Mother" pops out to stab him at the top of the stairs.
  • Old Maid: In both the book and the movie, Marion is motivated to set the film's action in motion—that is, steal $40,000, and run off with it in order to pay off her boyfriend's debts so he can marry her—in part because she is over 35 (27 in the book), and desperate to get married.
  • One Bad Mother: Mother — if not the Trope Maker, then definitely a popularizer.
  • One-Word Title
  • Parental Incest: Norman's extreme issues with his mother and sexuality are both very firmly connected.
  • Peek-a-Boo Corpse: Even if you already know Norma Bates is dead, her corpse will freak you out. No eyes!
    • The light bulb's swaying is to intentionally give the impression that the corpse is alive and laughing.
    • It's worse than that. Every bird in the movie was a Chekhov's Gun staring right at you.
  • The Peeping Tom: Norman has a peephole in the office that he uses to watch Marion in Cabin #1 when she undresses for the shower.
  • Phallic Weapon: The knife. Note its silhouette as the stabbing sequence begins.
  • Photo Identification Denial: Following Marion Crane's murder, Arbogast (a private investigator), and Marion's boyfriend and sister make separate visits to the Bates Motel and ask Norman Bates about her disappearance. It's plainly obvious, after Norman had already personally cleaned up the murder scene and disposed of Marion's car and body, that he lies when says he's never seen her. It's notable that he barely glances at the photograph of Marion that Arbogast shows him.
  • P.O.V. Cam: Briefly but effectively used at several points throughout the film.
  • Private Detective: Arbogast, who has been sent to find Marion because the people back in Phoenix don't want to call the cops.
  • Promoted to Love Interest: Inverted. In the original novel Lila and Sam become romantically involved after Marion is killed and they try to solve her murder. Hitchcock made their relationship platonic in the film, because it would be gross otherwise.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Norman, to a small extent. We see Norman's childhood toys when Lila goes into his room.
  • Psychosexual Horror: Marion Crane gets murdered by Mrs. Bates (really a crossdressing Norman Bates) while taking a shower. The brutal murder itself has undertones of rape with the knife representing the male sex organ, the stabbing representing penetration, and the blood gushing representing ejaculation. The fact that she was murdered because Norman's attraction to her or any woman in general set off his jealous mother only adds to the horror. The film's third sequel Psycho IV: The Beginning (1990) further reveals that because of his mother's sexual abuse on him growing up, Norman hesitates whenever he tries getting physically intimate with any woman on a date and instead he kills her out of homicidal impulse due to his mother's domineering personality over him.
  • Psychotic Smirk:
    • Marion displays this while driving along and imagining the reactions of everyone as they realize that she's fled with the money, particularly Mr. Cassidy.
    • Norman has a slight one at the very end.
  • "Psycho" Strings: Trope Namer, along with "Psycho" Shower Murder Parody. Aside from the infamous scene in the shower, listen closely to the soundtrack throughout the film. There's not a woodwind or a percussion note to be found; it's all strings.
  • Quicksand Sucks: Marion's body is disposed of by being put in a car which is then pushed into a pool of mire in the nearby swamp. It takes some heavy duty machinery to pull the car out after Norman is institutionalized.
  • Re-Cut: Universal released an unrated cut of the film in 2020 to theaters and Blu-ray/4K UHD/digital to tie in with the 60th anniversary of the film. This cut runs about 13 seconds longer, and includes an additional shot of Marion removing her bra (no nudity is visible), a longer closeup of Norman's bloody hands, and more stabs in Arbogast's murder. This cut was already known by fans since it had been run on German television decades prior. While Universal claims it was the original cut that was released theatrically (before being censored for the 1969 reissue), there's still some debate if that was really the case.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Marion takes her fatal shower more or less immediately after deciding to go back to Phoenix, return what's left of the money, and face the music.
  • Red Herring:
    • The money is one of the most notorious examples in film history. The fact that Norman tosses the $40,000 away alongside Marion's body in the lake (and never even knew about it) completely demolishes the audience's original expectations for the rationale behind Marion's death and thus cements at the end of the film that Norman murdered people because he's insane and that Marion was not killed for her money.
    • The film hints many times that Mrs. Bates is responsible for the murders of Marion and Arbogast when she's Dead All Along. To be fair though, she technically exists in spirit as part of Norman's Split Personality.
  • Reflexive Response: Marion nods at Lowery when she sees him crossing the street, only to realize a split second later that he's just caught her in a lie (she's driving out of town rather than home sick as she claimed).
  • The Reveal: One of the most famous in history, as Lila turns to find Norman Bates in wig and dress, holding a knife.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: Sam and Lila think Norman murdered Marion for the money. While he did kill her, it's because his alternate personality was enraged by his attraction to her. He never even knew about the money.
  • Rule of Scary: Mrs. Bates' rocking chair acts like a swivel chair around the end of the movie, entirely for the benefit of a very creepy shot. Audiences were okay with this.
  • Rule of Symbolism:
    • Norman's brooding home — the Bates Motel, with his mother sitting in the window — is a very striking image. Against the modern America of functional apartment buildings, cars, and highways, the Bates house is a gothic throwback—an ominous reminder of tales of a terrifying past. Philosopher and Hitchcock fan Slavoj Zizek has argued that the house is a symbol of Norman's psychology. That leaning gothic mansion is Norman's skull, in which his dead mother sits and rocks and issues stern commands. He also argued that the three levels of the house correspond to the three Freudian aspects of the psyche. The top floor, where Mrs. Bates hangs out for most of the movie, is the superego. Mrs. Bates (and the third floor) act as the conscience, issuing commands and judges. The ground floor of Chez Bates is the Ego, the everyday self—where Norman is himself, the everyday dude. And then, in the fruit cellar, is the Id— the home of instinctual desires. When Norman carries his mother down from her room into the fruit cellar, that she stops being a force of the Superego (removed, set up with rules) and begins to be a force of the Id (part of Norman's instinctual self). The film is fascinated with the idea of multiple personalities. And Hitchcock even throws in a psychiatrist at the end to explain everything, through elaborate psychoanalytic explanations.
    • Norman (dressed as his mother, Mrs. Bates) kills women with some frequency in his hotel, but chooses to use a knife off all tools while doing so. Then again, Norman isn't exactly in his right mind (or anyone else's), so you can't expect him to make the best choices. Still, symbolically it's pretty clear why he sticks with the knife. It's because of… sex. A knife, thrusting in and out of a vulnerable body, is a phallic symbol, bloodily and horribly miming sex. The psychiatrist at the end of the film says that Norman is aroused by Marion, and that his mother personality becomes jealous and kills her. But you could also see the murder as a completion, or extension of Norman's desire. He looks through the peephole and sees Marion naked…and then he comes into her room and penetrates her repeatedly. Plus, since the viewer's watching a suspense thriller, the viewers would anticipate the gory bits. By linking the murder to sex, Hitchcock is suggesting that he—and you watching—get enjoyment from watching murder onscreen.
    • Hitchcock loves voyeurism. The dramatic opening shot of the film starts high over Phoenix, and then swoops down to a window. The viewer then moves inside, where they see Marion half-undressed after sex with her boyfriend. It's just a movie, but it's also very creepy… and completely entrenched in what is known as the male gaze. When Norman looks at Marion, therefore, he's only doing what the viewer has already done. Marion, first thing in the film, is presented as an illicit object of desire; someone you stare at lustfully without her knowing. It's them (or Hitchcock) who are in the first place guilty of looking through that peephole and wanting Marion. You are guilty, and so, to wipe out that guilt, and to deliver the suspense shocks, Marion must… die. After Norman and Marion have dinner, Marion goes back to her cabin, and Norman removes a picture from the wall of the office. Behind the picture is a peephole. Norman looks through it, and you see a shot framed in darkness (as if seen through the hole) of Marion undressing. The camera then cuts to an extreme close-up of Norman's eye, staring intently at the illuminated, ragged hole. Norman's eye here is also your eye. He's looking excitedly at Marion undressing, just as you're looking (excitedly or otherwise) at Marion undressing. Norman and you are watching together, which means you are put in Norman's place, desiring Marion. And Norman's desire leads to guilt… which causes him to stab Marion to death.
    • Norman tells Marion his hobby is stuffing things — taxidermy. He's referring most directly to the stuffed birds in his office. But unbeknownst to Marion, the most impressive example of Norman's taxidermy skills is his mother's corpse, which is sitting in the window of his house. The stuffed birds, then, are a symbol of Norman's mother. Except... Norman is his mother, or at least he thinks he's her. When his mother's voice thinks to herself at the end sitting in the police station that she can't do anything but "sit and stare, like one of his stuffed birds" — that's not really his mother speaking. That's Norman comparing himself to his stuffed birds. And what he's been stuffed with, and what is filling him up, is his mother… who now "lives" inside him. There are other references to birds, too. Norman tells Marion when they have dinner together that she eats like a bird. Anthony Perkins' performance as Norman is also pretty birdlike; he moves in nervous jumps, and extends his head.
    • Norman's famously the one who's got another person behind his eyes. But the first person you see listening to inner voices isn't actually Marion. Several times as she's driving away with the cash, we see a close-up of Marion's face and then hear other voices — her boss, Lowery, her coworker, the client Cassidy that she robbed. The voices in Marion's head are a way for Hitchcock to let you know what's going on with other people—or at least what might be going on with other people—without moving away from Marion's perspective. The first part of the film is determined to always stay in Marion's head, in the interest of making it all the more shocking when the film moves to somebody else's. Another reason to listen to Marion's head is the last time Marion hears these voices when she listens to the imagined voices of her boss and the millionaire who bought the house, furious at her deception, her expression is no longer anguished, she's actually rather satisfied. Both Marion and Norman hear voices in their heads; both seem to find these voices pleasurable in a twisted way. Norman and Marion are therefore linked; they're both guilty of crimes, and while both are on the surface disturbed by their crimes, they both actually take pleasure in them.

  • Sacrificial Lion: Offing an important character in order to make a sudden change in direction—Marion is a perfect example.
  • Serial Killer: Norman Bates is easily one of the most famous examples.
  • Sex Is Evil, and I Am Horny: Norman's reaction when he is peeking at Marion in her room.
  • Sex Signals Death: Possibly one of the earliest examples of this in American cinema. The opening hotel tryst establishes Marion as sexually active with Sam, and famously ends up getting killed in the first half hour. Even the shower itself features sexual allegories; her expressions start as ecstatic and then dreamy, as if pleasuring herself, and then the stabbings evoke a rape.
  • Sexist Used Car Salesman: Averted. Marion is desperate to sell her car and get another (in order to change her conspicuous license plate, given the theft she committed has already been reported), and has to practically beg the dealership man to get one, without even bothering to discuss the price.
  • Sexy Packaging: The original poster had Janet Leigh in a bra as the central image.
  • The Sheriff: Al Chambers, who doesn't think much of Lila's wild tale.
  • Shirtless Scene: Sam Loomis, in the hotel room at the beginning.
  • Shout-Out:
    • While searching Norman's bedroom at the house, Lila comes across an old phonograph with a record of Beethoven's Eroica symphony on it.
    • In the novel, it's mentioned that Norman has studied occult writers such as Aleister Crowley and P.D. Ouspensky.
  • Shower of Angst: Marion takes one after deciding to return to Phoenix, but it is horribly subverted.
  • Shower Scene: It seems like it should be pretty sexy—we are talking about Janet Leigh naked, after all—but Hitchcock frames and shoots the scene to give it an ominous feel. Then the door opens and the movie veers off in a completely different direction.
  • The Shrink: Delivers a painfully long, boring Info Dump in which he spells out everything that the audience already knows, but it's understandable because of the era the movie was released in. To our modern eyes, the scene comes off as overwritten, but in 1960 almost no one would have even heard of the kind of psychosis that Norman has, let alone been able to connect the dots without some kind of explanation.
  • Sinister Shades: Worn by the cop who wakes Marion up in her car.
  • Slasher Movie: Not a strict example of the genre, but a clear influence on those that followed. While the movie does codify the short, vicious bursts of violence punctuating long set-ups, it's otherwise thoroughly averted. Only two people die on-camera, and the third only comes close.
  • Slasher Smile: Norman gets off an epic one at the end while he's in a holding cell.
  • Slashers Prefer Blondes. More accurately, Alfred Hitchcock prefers blondes.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Waaaaay over on the cynical side.
  • Sorting Algorithm of Mortality / Sorting Algorithm of Deadness: Defies both of these. No one expected the main character to be killed off, and less expected her to stay dead once it happened. And yet, that's what this film does. Think about how few films defy this rule even today, and you get a sense of just how ahead of its time Psycho was.
  • Speech Impediment: Norman has an occasional stammer. Initially, it adds to his early adorkableness, and seems to be due to nerves. It becomes more unsettling later, when it becomes apparent that Norman stammers over significant words.
  • Split-Personality Takeover: According to the psychiatrist, "Mother" has taken over, and in the last scene Norman is talking in Mother's voice and having Mother's internal dialogue.
  • Stay on the Path: Marion discovers that she has missed her exit while driving in the dark and the rain, and gotten off the main road onto the old road. This was in 1960, when the highway system was less extensive than today, and she made a very common mistake people made then, which would have made the audience nod in recognition. She stops at the Bates Motel to ask directions, and decides to stay the night before trying to find her way back in the dark. After being spooked by an essentially harmless, but seemingly menacing, policeman when she tried sleeping in her car the night before. She feels sorry for Norman, who is lonely, hasn't rented a room in a long time, and seems so harmless.
  • Stealing from the Till: Marion makes a crazy spur-of-the-moment decision to run off with Mr. Cassidy's forty grand rather than deposit it at the bank.
  • Stepford Smiler: Norman. Outwardly smiling and charming, but oh so unwell behind the mask. It's even more unnerving because Norman himself is so unstable that he acknowledges his Stepford mask slipping on and off:
    Marion: Sometimes, we deliberately step into those traps.
    Norman: I was born into mine. I don't mind it anymore.
    Marion: Oh, but you should. You should mind it.
    Norman: Oh, I do (laughs) but I say I don't.
  • Supermodel Strut: Sharp eyes will notice Norman's little hip swing as he goes upstairs in the second act.
  • Surprisingly Sudden Death: Arbogast's death scene was filmed to invoke this, as focusing the camera on his feet would clue the audience in that something was about to happen.
  • Survivorship Bias: Zig-zagged. While Marion dies early in the film, after the story continues on, the narrative shifts its emotional investment to the surviving characters and Norman.
  • Sweet Tooth: Norman is constantly munching on candy. This was apparently Anthony Perkins' idea.
  • Sympathetic Murderer: Norman is a very deeply disturbed man, and the movie is directed in such a way as to elicit sympathy from the audience after he kills Marion. In the end, he becomes a figure of pity and is stated to not really be responsible for his own actions.
  • Taxidermy Is Creepy / Taxidermy Terror: Norman's office at the Bates Motel is decorated with various stuffed birds. This serves to establish seemingly mild-mannered Norman as creepy and weird even before the Halfway Plot Switch.
  • They Look Just Like Everyone Else!: Norman Bates. In the book, he's written as middle-aged, homely at best, and a bit creepy (much like his inspiration, Ed Gein), but Hitchcock thought it would be more interesting to make him look wholesome.
  • Toplessness from the Back: Guess.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Norman is often seen munching on candy corn, a habit created by Anthony Perkins for the character.
  • Trailers Always Spoil:
    • Every home video release from 2008 onward unfortunately spoiled the killer's identity in the synopsis. Some home video trailers even have the nerve to show Norma Bates' stuffed corpse!
    • The original trailer featured Hitchcock himself taking the viewer on a tour of the set and giving away multiple plot points, while still being sufficiently vague.
  • Unable to Support a Wife: Sam Loomis can't, which is why Marion steals the $40,000.
  • Unbuilt Trope: Almost a deconstruction of slasher movies before the genre would even take hold two decades later with Halloween (1978), it plays around with Nothing Is Scarier, something that would only begin to re-emerge in The Aughts with films like The Ring and The Grudge.
  • The Unfair Sex: An Averted Trope. Marion's a thief and Norman's mother was abusive.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Between Marion and Norman. There are problems in Marion's and Sam's relationship, so when the handsome young Norman shows up, audiences at the time were primed to expect a love triangle to develop.
  • The Unreveal: Lila opens a book in Norman's bedroom. We never see what's in it and her expression offers no clue—pornography (as it was in the novel and the remake), a children's book, a photo album?
  • Ur-Example: One of the Ur Examples of the Slasher Movie.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Certain aspects of Norman Bates (specifically the mommy issues and the crossdressing) are based on real life graverobber and murderer Ed Gein. Though accounts vary on whether Robert Bloch, the author of the original 1959 novel that the 1960 film was adapted from, intentionally based Bates on Gein, Gein's crimes were uncovered in 1957 in Plainfield, Wisconsin, only 35 miles from where Bloch was living and writing at the time, and the case was a national media sensation.
  • Villain Protagonist: Marion is a thief. Norman's evil personality is a murderer. Norman's "good" personality tries to cover up the evidence of the evil personality's crimes.
  • Villainous Incest: Hinted at, but it's not until the prequel that the subtext becomes a textbook case of Freudian Excuse.
  • Villainous Mother-Son Duo: Unbuilt Trope. It appears that Norman Bates and his (unseen) mother are running a Hell Hotel together, although Norman is horrified when he finds that his mother murdered Marion Crane and covers up her crime by disposing of Marion's body. In the climax it's revealed that "mother" is actually an evil Split Personality of Norman, created after killing his mother many years ago and suppressing the guilt by fooling his psyche to think she is still alive and not just a preserved skeleton. The real woman actually encouraged Norman to be more independent. However, later sequels retcon this, showing that although Norman and Norma were not actively in league together, she *did* play a large part in his Freudian Excuse.
  • Visual Innuendo: The entire shower scene. The distinctly phallic silhouette of the knife, the stabbing (or rather, penetration), the ejaculatory spurts of blood.
  • The Voice: Norman's "mother". Well, she does make an on-screen appearance at the very end. Sort of.
  • Wall Slump:
    • A dying Marion slumps against the wall and slides down to the bottom of the tub.
    • Norman's reaction to seeing her.
  • Wham Line: "Norman Bates's mother has been dead and buried in Greenlawn Cemetery for the past ten years."
  • Wham Shot:
    • Mother! When Lila ventures into the basement and finds Mrs.Bates, the chair slowly rotates to reveal Mrs.Bates is actually a rotting decaying preserved corpse, frightening Lila.
    • After discovering Mrs.Bates's corpse, Lila turns around and sees Norman dressed as Mother ready to kill her.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: Fairvale, California is fictional, but going by the map on the wall in the Sheriff's office, it's in Shasta County at the north end of the Central Valley.
  • Wide Eyes and Shrunken Irises: Marion's eyes do this, though in a Artistic License – Biology moment. (In Real Life pupils dilate at death.)
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Norman. The things he does are quite "mad," but look at who raised him. How could anyone not sympathize with him in at least some capacity?
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: When Sam confronts Norman, he tells Norman that he thinks Mrs. Bates killed Marion and that Norman stole the money so he can start a new life with the money. This is the type of motive that would make perfect sense in a Film Noir. However, this is a horror movie, and Norman killing Marion has nothing to do with the money.
  • You Bastard!: Subtly done.
    • In the opening scene, the camera moves through the window to focus on a semi-dressed Marion and Sam, both of whom just finished having sex. Later, Norman does something similar by spying on Marion stripping in the bathroom.
    • The film also invokes this through its portrayal of Norman, who is characterized for the most part as an awkward but likeable Momma's Boy trying to cover up the crimes of his violent mother. For example, in the car-disposal scene, when Marion's car fails to sink into the waters, Norman panics for a bit, which makes him look more sympathetic to the audience. Of course, allowing the audience to empathize with Norman makes The Reveal that Norman was the killer all along all the more shocking.


Video Example(s):



Psycho starts out as a Film Noir-style crime thriller centering around Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), a secretary at a Phoenix real estate office who embezzles a large amount of cash from her employer's client and sets off for Fairvale, California, where she plans to hook up with her lover and begin a new life. After two days of driving - plus an unnerving encounter with a highway patrolman and a hasty exchange of cars - she stops for the night at the desolate, out-of-the-way Bates Motel, run by nervous Momma's Boy Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), who lives with his elderly but domineering mother in an ominous Victorian house behind the motel.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / SlasherMovie

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