Hitchock singlehandedly created the psychological thriller and the slasher movie with this film. It's a remarkable achievement made even more remarkable if you understand the time period in which it was made.
Prior to 1960 no one had seen a naked woman taking a shower in a movie...it was taboo. And Hitchcock simultaneously blew the lid off that AND shocked the movie world forever by having this very taboo moment end in bloody, knife inflicted murder. Oh what it must have been like to be in the audience in 1960! Hitchcock even brilliantly foreshadows this shower murder in the earlier scene of Marion driving in the rain and then turning on the windshield wipers, which seem to be slashing at her (along with the piercing music).
The film is bursting with psycho-sexual subtext, and just plain subtext of all kinds...it puts most other horror thrillers to shame. It also started the killer-as-moral-compass motif, with later killers knocking off immoral teenagers (Friday The 13th, Nightmare On Elm Street, Scream) and sinning, sheep like citizens (Se7en, Saw).
Anthony Perkins is incredible as Norman Bates, putting forth a subtle, nuanced performance that the viewer can't seem to get a handle on in the first couple acts. Is he crazy, weird, or nervously shy...or all three? It's a brilliant piece of acting.
The cinematography, score, and acting from the other performers are all fantastic.
The film is so good, a big Hollywood movie about the making of the film is being released next year (Alfred Hitchcock And The Making Of Psycho) starring Anthony Hopkins as the legendary director. What other older film would get this kind of treatment? It's a testament to the film's long lasting impact on cinema.
Edited by Ambler - 6/12/12 at 8:44am