100 Movies to See Before You Die- “Psycho” (1960)

Psycho is a 1960 film directed by Alfred Hitchcock. The film stars Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, John Gavin, and Janet Leigh. Out of Hitchcock’s many films this is probably his most iconic and culturally recognized. It was initially not very well reviewed but later reviews and reviewers better reflected the approval the public gave the film. Psycho was a worldwide success and ended up being a huge box office smash. Adjusted for inflation, the domestic gross of Psycho is nearly $338,000,000 (link). The film was Hitchcock’s biggest box office success. The film was also recognized at the Academy Awards with four nominations (Director, Supporting Actress-Leigh, Cinematography, and Art Direction) but it did not bring home any wins. Down through the years the film has made many “best of” lists. It has also been ingrained into pop culture and has often been parodied and emulated in a variety of different mediums. So does Hitchcock’s most successful film deserve to be counted among the best of the best?

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Should this film be considered a classic? This is one of those films that I really have to try to watch with fresh eyes every time I sit down to view it. Why? Because it is so ingrained in popular culture that it is easy to just see the many parodies and emulations and miss appreciating the film for what it is. When I put aside all of that, Psycho becomes a wonderfully tense film. This remains true even after multiple viewings because the tension is built so masterfully through so many different elements. The iconic music clues us in well in advance that there is more going on in the story than the simple theft of some money. The cinematography with some  strong noir elements (heavy contrast, deep shadows) keeps the viewer on edge even in scenes that seem innocent. The story is ingenious because it front loads so many of the important parts of the story but you don’t even realize it until the end. It turns what could be a pretty typical crime thriller into a much deeper psychological thriller. On top of all that, the performances are great with Leigh pulling off the sympathetic criminal perfectly. Yes, this is definitely a classic.

Would I own this film? I already do. It has a really solid Blu-Ray release that brings out some incredible detail in each scene. Hitchcock has a number of really good films. There is a reason this one is so popular and so often emulated. If you haven’t watched this one recently, do yourself a favor and grab it. Try to watch it with fresh eyes and I think you will have an even greater appreciation for what is an all around great film.

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