3. PSYCHO (1960)

This movie is so freaky that almost forty years after it was first released, Gus Van Sant was moved enough to remake it shot-for-shot. Talk about an homage to our favorite obese Brit - no, not Churchill - Alfred Hitchcock.

Notwithstanding the benefits of modernity that come with a current version (like less embarrassing clothes and cooler cars), the classic version of this creepy flick is just that: a classic. This movie launched a whole new conception of fear upon the American public. Before Psycho, the source of evil in horror movies was usually a clownish-looking guy in a Wookiee outfit or some other outlandish and bogus Thing. Psycho showed us that the greatest potential horror doesn't come from the Deep, a la Mystery Science Theater 3000 buffoonery. Nope, the greatest threat comes from the guy next door.

The quintessential guy next door is Norman Bates, masterfully played by Anthony Perkins, and he's the reason we now all look twice at the well-groomed but shy geeks lurking at the back of science class. Filmed in Freudian psychology's heyday, this film is largely a story of a boy and his mother - and Norman is a very big part of that very dysfunctional relationship. Caught in the middle is Marion Crane (Janet Leigh).

You'll be amazed at how current the plot twists and sinister behavior seem in this movie. In fact, you'll be tempted to conclude - like the proverbial guy who reads Shakespeare for the first time - that the film is just one cliché after another. Wrong. This is where they all came from, baby: ground zero of mental twistedness.

Alfred was a very sick puppy. As in the work of Stephen King today, Hitchcock had the unerring ability to identify precisely the most awful aspects of the seemingly familiar stuff around us. After viewing Psycho, we'll never look at showers, motels, or mothers the same way again.


  • Followed by many, many sequels

  • Nominated for 4 Academy Awards, including Best Director and Supporting Actress for Leigh

  • Leigh won a Golden Globe Award for her performance

  • During the famous "shower scene," chocolate syrup was used for blood, since it showed up nicely on black and white film

  • Janet Leigh's daughter also starred in a horror film: Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween

  • Placed #18 on the American Film Institute's "100 Greatest Movies" List