If you ask a random person off the street about The Flash's secret identity, more than likely they've never read a comic book in their life. Furthermore, I doubt they'd be able to tell you Barry Allen (and I really doubt if they would tell Jay, Wally, or Bart). However, if you ask anyone about Superman's, they'll quickly respond Clark Kent. Similarly, only cinephiles can tell you the director of movies like Strangers on a Train, Dial M for Murder, and Rebecca. But the minute you mention Psycho, immediately Alfred Hitchcock registers to the brain, regardless if they've seen the movie or not.
Everyone knows Psycho's plot: Marion Crane (played by Janet Leigh) decides to run away after she steals $40,000 from her workplace. Tired from driving, Marion stops for some rest off the old highway - The Bates Motel. Run by a peculiar young man named Norman Bates (played by Anthony Perkins), he also takes care of his cruel, yet ill mother in the old house behind the motel. Not caring for Norman's attraction to their new customer, Mrs. Bates brutally stabs and kills Marion in the shower. Being the loyal son that he is, Norman gathers all evidence of Marion and disposes of it by throwing it into a nearby swamp. But when Marion's sister and lover begin searching for her, what secrets and darkness will they discover at the Bates Motel?
If you are one of the few people who doesn't know the ending to Hitchcock's film, stop reading now and do yourself a service - Pick up Psycho and watch a Cinematic Masterpiece. I'd love to be in your shoes!
Now, I'm going to believe most people are like me and probably knew the film's "twist" before even seeing it. In my case, Universal Studios spoiled Psycho's ending in their Alfred Hitchcock Exhibit when I was only a kindergartner. I vividly remember because my family got to skip to the front of the line since my grandfather was chosen to play Norman Bates in a reenactment of Psycho's shower scene. I laugh back on it now, but I was terrified to sleep next to my Grandpa that night...
Just as everyone knows Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker's father, it's synonymous that Norman Bates is the killer. These pieces of pop culture are so ingrained with society that they've become common knowledge. Personally, I wish I could rewatch this film and be as surprised as those who first viewed it in 1960. I imagine the next generation will have a similar relationship to The Sixth Sense since it's parodied so much in movies and television. Regardless, if you do know the ending of Psycho, you can easily enjoy the movie as the suspense is created through the characters, cinematography, and music.
I highly recommend picking up the latest Blu-Ray because it's filled with tons of bonus features and has the seal of approval from TCM. I haven't watched Psycho in quite a while, but Anthony Perkins blows Vince Vaughn out of the water. He plays the role perfectly by showing a likable guy filled with frustrated innocence who can quickly transform into a terrifying murderer. The character of Norman Bates has made major impact on cinematic history, creating a passageway for slashers and bad guys to exist on the silver screen today.
So on Death List Five, Psycho ranks #4