Psycho is a 1960 American psychological horror thriller film produced and directed by Alfred Hitchcock. The screenplay, written by Joseph Stefano, was based on the 1959 novel of the same name by Robert Bloch. The film stars Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles, John Gavin and Martin Balsam. The plot centers on an encounter between on-the-run embezzler Marion Crane (Leigh) and shy motel proprietor Norman Bates (Perkins) and its aftermath, in which a private investigator (Balsam), Marion's lover Sam Loomis (Gavin), and her sister Lila (Miles) investigate the cause of her disappearance.
Psycho was seen as a departure from Hitchcock's previous film North by Northwest, as it was filmed on a lower budget in black-and-white by the crew of his television series Alfred Hitchcock Presents. The film was initially considered controversial and received mixed reviews, but audience interest and outstanding box-office returns prompted a major critical re-evaluation. Psycho was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Supporting Actress for Janet Leigh and Best Director for Hitchcock.
Psycho is now considered one of Hitchcock's best films, and is arguably his most famous work. It has been praised as a major work of cinematic art by international film critics and scholars due to its slick direction, tense atmosphere, impressive camerawork, a memorable score and iconic performances. Often ranked among the greatest films of all time, it set a new level of acceptability for violence, deviant behavior and sexuality in American films, and is widely considered to be the earliest example of the slasher film genre.
After Hitchcock's death in 1980, Universal Pictures produced follow-ups: three sequels, a remake, a made-for-television spin-off, and a prequel television series set in the 2010s. In 1992, the Library of Congress deemed the film "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" and selected it for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.
During a Friday afternoon tryst in a Phoenix hotel, real estate secretary Marion Crane and her boyfriend Sam Loomis discuss their inability to get married because of Sam's debts. Marion returns to work, steals a cash payment of $40,000 entrusted to her for deposit and sets off to drive to Sam's home in Fairvale, California. En route, Marion hurriedly trades her car, arousing suspicion from both the car dealer and a California Highway Patrol officer.
Marion stops for the night at the Bates Motel, located off the main highway, and hides the stolen money inside a newspaper. Proprietor Norman Bates descends from a large house overlooking the motel, registers Marion under an assumed name, and invites her to dine with him. After Norman returns to his house, Marion overhears Norman arguing with his mother about Marion's presence. Norman returns with a light meal and apologizes for his mother's outbursts. Norman discusses his hobby as a taxidermist, his mother's "illness" and how people have a "private trap" they want to escape. Marion decides to drive back to Phoenix in the morning and return the stolen money. As Marion showers, a shadowy figure appears and stabs her to death. Soon afterward, Norman's anguished voice is heard from the house yelling "Mother! Oh God, Mother! Blood! Blood!" Norman cleans up the murder scene, puts Marion's body, belongings and the hidden cash in her car, and sinks it in a swamp.
Marion's sister Lila arrives in Fairvale a week later, tells Sam about the theft, and demands to know her whereabouts. He denies knowing anything about her disappearance. A private investigator named Arbogast approaches them, saying that he has been hired to retrieve the money. Arbogast stops at the Bates Motel and questions Norman, whose nervous behavior and inconsistent answers arouse his suspicion. He examines the guest register and discovers from her handwriting that Marion spent a night at the motel. When Arbogast learns that Marion had spoken to Norman's mother, Arbogast asks to speak to her, but Norman refuses to allow it. Arbogast updates Sam and Lila about his search, and promises to phone again in an hour. After he enters the Bates home in search of Norman's mother, a shadowy figure emerges from the bedroom and stabs him to death.
When Lila and Sam do not hear from Arbogast, Sam visits the motel. He sees a figure in the house whom he assumes is Norman's mother. Lila and Sam alert the local sheriff, who tells them that Norman's mother died in a murder-suicide ten years earlier. The sheriff suggests that Arbogast lied to Sam and Lila so he could pursue Marion and the money. Convinced that something happened to Arbogast, Lila and Sam drive to the motel. Sam distracts Norman in the office while Lila sneaks into the house. Suspicious, Norman becomes agitated and knocks Sam unconscious. As he goes to the house, Lila hides in the fruit cellar where she discovers the mother's mummified body. She screams, and Norman, wearing his mother's clothes and a wig, enters the cellar and tries to stab her. Sam appears and subdues him.
At the police station, a psychiatrist explains that a jealous Norman murdered his mother and her lover ten years earlier. Norman mummified his mother's corpse and began treating it as if she were still alive. He recreated his mother in his mind as an alternate personality, as jealous and possessive towards Norman as he felt about his mother. When Norman is attracted to a woman, "Mother" takes over: He had murdered two other young women before Marion, and Arbogast was killed to hide "his mother's" crime. The psychiatrist concludes "Mother" has now completely taken over Norman's personality. Norman sits in a jail cell and hears his mother saying that the murders were all his doing. Marion's car is retrieved from the swamp.