Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Psycho (1960)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Psycho (1960)

In Alfred Hitchcock's ground-breaking horror thriller:

  • the opening shots with a view of 1960s Phoenix as the camera above the city slowly descended into the window of a motel (not the first motel in the film!)
  • the furtive, lunchtime love-making scene with real estate office secretary Marion Crane (Oscar-nominated Janet Leigh) in white bra and half-slip with shirtless lover/fiancee Sam Loomis (John Gavin)
  • the tense shots of Marion's face - as she fled town in her car (after absconding with $40,000 from the office) - and the puzzled look on her boss Mr. Lowery's (Vaughn Taylor) astonished face as she paused at a stoplight and he glanced at her as he crossed the intersection in front of her
  • the tracking shot in Marion's apartment linking her packed suitcase to the envelope stuffed with money
  • the scene of the California state trooper Patrolman (Mort Mills), with frightening dark glasses staring at Marion through her car window, and interrogating her on the side of the road
  • on Saturday evening, the scene of Marion's torment from menacing, inner monologues from off-screen voices - her disintegrating mental state and self-destructive conscience (and physical weariness) caused her to look inward and punish herself - as she imagined and forecast events leading up to her capture
  • the first sight of the Bates Motel seen through Marion's rainy windshield
  • the haunted-looking Gothic house behind the motel
  • the back parlor scene of motel proprietor Norman Bates' (Anthony Perkins) conversation with Marion amidst his stuffed birds
The Back Parlor Scene
  • the sequence of Norman's perverse peeping through a hole in the wall at Marion undressing
"Peeping Tom" Voyeurism of Norman
on Marion in Hotel Room
  • the shocking, carefully-edited, dialogue-less shower murder scene of the major star in the first third of the film by a blurry female figure wielding a knife high in the air - a purifying act that shockingly turned violent with the violin-screeching soundtrack of Bernard Herrmann timed to the stabbings, the ting-ting-ting sound as the shower curtain rings pulled off the rod, and the image of bloodied water spiraling down the drain that dissolved into a close-up of dead Marion's stationary open eye
Marion's Shower Murder
  • the sounds of Norman's screams coming from the Gothic house on the hill behind the Bates Motel: "Mother! Oh, God! Mother! Blood! Blood!"; and then, at the bathroom door after viewing the curtain-less shower and the dead body, he turned away and cupped his hand to his mouth, revulsed and nauseated by the horrific scene and possibly stifling a scream
  • Norman's laborious clean-up of the murder scene, the deposit of Marion's corpse in his car's trunk, and the car's slow descent into the nearby swamp as Norman stood by nervously and nibbled at candy as it slowly gurgled lower and lower into the muck
  • the tense conversation between Norman and private investigator Milton Arbogast (Martin Balsam) at the front desk - when he looked at the register to discover if Marion Crane used an alias (Norman chewed nervously on candy, almost bird-like; from a low camera angle, his adam's apple moved up and down his giraffe-like throat while awkwardly stretching to look at the register); Arbogast proved that Marion stayed at the motel by matching her signature to the "Marie Samuels" signature in the book - after Norman denied that he had any recent guests
  • their continued conversation on the motel's front walkway, when the PI made the provocative implication that the very suspicious Norman had been fooled by Marion, and that she had paid him well to keep her hidden: ("Let's just say for the uh, just for the sake of argument that she wanted you to, uh, gallantly protect her. You'd know that you were being used. You wouldn't be made a fool of, would ya?"; Norman bristled at the suggestion: "But, I'm, I'm not a fool. And I'm not capable of being fooled. Not even by a woman... Let's put it this way. She might have fooled me, but she didn't fool my mother")
  • the shocking murder of Arbogast at the top of the Gothic house's staircase, when he snuck back there to investigate and speak to Mrs. Bates, and the high-angle overhead shot of his unbalanced fall backwards down the entire length of stairs - and the relentless stabbing that he suffered from Norman's "mother" after hitting the floor
Arbogast's Upper Stairway Knifing Murder and Backwards Fall
  • the Deputy Sheriff Al Chambers' (John McIntire) conversation with Sam and Marion's sister Lila (Vera Miles) about who was buried in Greenlawn Cemetery - he claimed that Norman's mother had died in a murder-suicide ten years earlier and was buried there: "Norman Bates' mother has been dead and buried in Greenlawn Cemetery for the past ten years....It's the only case of murder and suicide on Fairvale ledgers. Mrs. Bates poisoned this guy she was involved with when she found out he was married. Then took a helping of the same stuff herself. Strychnine. Ugly way to die....You want to tell me you saw Norman Bates' mother?...Well, if the woman up there is Mrs. Bates, who's that woman buried out in Greenlawn Cemetery?" - [Note: Norman Bates stole his mother's corpse and had a weighted coffin buried]
  • Lila's shocking, revealing, basement fruit-cellar discovery scene when she turned a chair holding an elderly woman and saw Norman's mummified "Mother" under the swinging light - casting ghastly images onto the wall, and her shrieking response
  • the lengthy description in the Chief of Police's office by smug and officious police psychiatrist Dr. Fred Richman (Simon Oakland), in order to reconstruct or 'explain' the mystery of Norman's schizophrenic psychosis - after questioning 'his mother'; in all likelihood, a "disturbed" Norman had an incestuously possessive and jealous love for his mother, so he poisoned both her and her lover after he discovered them in bed together; to wipe clean and obliterate the unbearable, intolerable crime of matricide from his conscience and consciousness, a remorseful Norman developed a split personality; in this way, he could keep the illusion that she was still alive; and to make that illusion a physical reality, he dug up and stole her body, and used his taxidermist skills to preserve and stuff her corpse, and keep her 'alive'; Dr. Richman explained, in part: "Matricide is probably the most unbearable crime of all - most unbearable to the son who commits it. So he had to erase the crime, at least in his own mind. He stole her corpse. A weighted coffin was buried. He hid the body in the fruit cellar, even treated it to keep it as well as it would keep. And that still wasn't enough. She was there, but she was a corpse."
  • the next-to-last image of a psychotically-crazed Norman wrapped in a blanket with his Mother's voice-over, who condemned her son for the crimes while she claimed that she was harmless: (the film's last monologue: "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. Oh, 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. 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.'") - a grinning smile slowly crept over Norman's face - subliminally superimposed by and dissolving into the grinning skull of his mother's mummified corpse
Insane Norman Bates: "Why, she wouldn't even harm a fly"
Marion's Dredged Car in Swamp
  • the film's final image - a dissolve into the dredging of the swamp - Marion's car with her body and the almost-$40,000 in the trunk was hauled trunk-first from the muck by a heavy clanking chain on a winch; horizontal black bars partially, and then completely, covered the final image

Marion's Furtive Lunchtime Love-Making With Sam (John Gavin)

Flight From Phoenix After Theft of $40,000

California Highway Patrolman (Mort Mills)

Menacing Voices in Marion's Head

First View of the Bates Motel Sign

Gothic House Behind Bates Motel

Norman's (Anthony Perkins) Reaction to Shower Murder

Arbogast's Interrogation of a Nervous Norman Inside the Office (Adam's Apple View)

Arbogast's Questioning of Norman on the Front Walkway

Sam and Lila (Vera Miles)

Deputy Sheriff: "Who's that woman buried out in Greenlawn Cemetery?"

Lila Looking for "Mother"

Norman's Mummified 'Mother' in Fruit Cellar

Lila's Shrieking Response

Sam Struggling With "Mother"/Norman to Save Lila

Dr. Richman's Explanation of Norman's Psychosis


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