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Norman Bates

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Gender  Male
Creator  Robert Bloch
Mother  Norma Bates
Norman Bates Norman Bates And His Mother Are The Cutest Couple On TV

Portrayed by  Anthony Perkins (PsychoPsycho IV: The Beginning)Oz Perkins (Psycho II, flashback)Kurt Paul (Bates Motel)Henry Thomas and Ryan Finnigan (Psycho IV: The Beginning, flashbacks)Vince Vaughn (Psycho (1998))Freddie Highmore (Bates Motel)
Relationships  John/Sam Bates (father, deceased)Norma Bates (mother, deceased)Robert Newman (twin brother; Bloch's novels only)Dylan Massett (half-brother/cousin; Bates Motel only)Alex Romero (stepfather; Bates Motel only)Emma Spool (maternal aunt, deceased; film canon only)Caleb Calhoun (maternal uncle; Bates Motel only)Emma Decody (sister-in-law; Bates Motel only)Kate Massett (niece; Bates Motel only)
Spouse(s)  Dr. Constance "Connle" Forbes-Bates (wife; film canon only)
Movies and TV shows  Bates Motel, Psycho, Psycho II, Psycho III, Psycho IV: The Beginning
Played by  Freddie High, Anthony Perkins, Vince Vaughn, Oz Perkins
Similar  Marion Crane, Hannibal Lecter, Leatherface, Emma Decody, Dylan Massett

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Norman Bates is a main character created by Robert Bloch as the main antagonist in his 1959 novel Psycho, and portrayed by Anthony Perkins in the 1960 film of the same name directed by Alfred Hitchcock and its sequels, and by Freddie Highmore in the television series Bates Motel. The character was inspired by Wisconsin murderer Ed Gein.


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Character overview

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Both the novel and the 1960 film adaptation explain that Norman suffered severe emotional abuse as a child at the hands of his mother, Norma, who preached to him that sexual intercourse was sinful and that all women (except herself) were whores. The novel also suggests that their relationship may have been incestuous. After Norman's father, John Bates died, Norman and his mother lived alone together "as if there was no one else in the world" until Norman reached adolescence, when his mother met Joe Considine (Chet Rudolph in Psycho IV: The Beginning) and planned to marry. Considine convinced Norma to open a motel. Driven over the edge with jealousy, Norman murdered both of them with strychnine. After committing the murders, Norman forged a suicide note to make it look as if Norma had killed her fiancé and then herself. After a brief hospitalization for shock, he developed dissociative identity disorder, assuming his mother's personality to repress his awareness of her death and to escape the feelings of guilt for murdering her. He inherited his mother's house—where he kept her corpse—and the family motel in the (fictional) small town of Fairvale, California.

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Bloch sums up Norman's multiple personalities in his stylistic form of puns: "Norman", a child dependent on his mother; "Norma", a possessive mother who kills anyone who threatens the illusion of her existence; and "Normal", a functional adult who goes through the motions of day-to-day life. "Norma" dominates and belittles "Norman" much as she had when she was alive, forbidding him to have friends and flying into violent rages whenever he feels attracted to a woman. "Norma" and "Norman" carry on conversations through Norman talking to himself and to her corpse in his mother's voice, and Norman dresses in his mother's clothes whenever "Norma" takes hold completely.

Psycho (novel and film)

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In Bloch's 1959 novel and the 1960 Hitchcock film, Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), a young woman on the run after stealing money from her employer, checks into the motel one night. Norman is smitten with her, and shyly asks her to have dinner with him in the house. "Mother" flies into a rage and threatens to kill Marion if Norman lets her in the house. Norman defies her and eats dinner with Marion anyway, but lashes out at her when she suggests that he institutionalize his mother. When Marion goes to her room to shower, Norman spies on her through a peephole he drilled in the wall. "Mother" takes control and stabs Marion to death (she beheads her in the novel) . When Norman awakes to discover what he believes his mother has done, he sinks Marion's car—with her corpse and the money in the trunk—into a nearby swamp. As "Mother", he also murders Milton Arbogast (Martin Balsam), a private detective hired by Marion's employer, days later.

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Norman is finally caught when Marion's sister Lila (Vera Miles) and boyfriend, Sam Loomis (John Gavin), arrive at the motel looking for her. When Norman figures out what they want, he knocks Sam out and goes running after Lila, who has reached the house and found Mrs. Bates' corpse. He attacks her as "Mother", but Sam overpowers him, and he is finally arrested. Norman is declared insane and sent to an institution, where "Mother" takes complete, and permanent, control of Norman's mind: he becomes his mother.

In Bloch's 1982 sequel to his novel, Norman escapes from the psychiatric hospital by killing a nun and donning her habit. Picked up as a hitchhiker, Norman tries to attack the driver with a tire iron, but the driver overpowers him. This in turn causes a fiery accident where the driver escapes, but Norman dies. Norman's psychiatrist, Dr. Adam Claiborne, discovers Norman's body and assumes his personality. In Bloch's 1990 sequel to his second novel, Psycho House, Norman appears only as a novelty animatronic on display in the Bates Motel, which has been converted into a tourist attraction. In Bloch's 2016 prequel to his second novel, Psycho: Sanitarium, Dr. Felix Reed tries to bring Norman out of a catatonic state. Sanitarium introduces Robert Newman, Norman's twin brother who was taken away at birth after the attending doctor pronounced him brain damaged. As Robert and Norman grow to know each other, Norman senses a darkness in Robert, even deeper then that which has lurked in Norman himself.

Psycho II

In 1983's Psycho II, the first sequel to the original film, Norman is released from the institution twenty-two years after his arrest, seemingly cured. He meets Mary Loomis (Meg Tilly)—Marion Crane's niece—and falls in love with her. However, a series of mysterious murders occurs, as well as strange appearances and messages from "Mother", and Norman slowly loses his grip on sanity. The mysterious appearances and messages turn out to be a plot by Mary's mother, Lila Loomis, to drive him insane again in order to get him recommitted. The actual murders turn out to be the work of Norman's coworker, Emma Spool (Claudia Bryar). Before Norman discovers this, however, Mary Loomis is shot dead by the police during a confrontation with Norman, and Spool murders Lila. When Spool tells Norman that she is his real mother, he kills her and embalms her body while assuming the "Mother" personality once again.

Psycho III

In 1986's Psycho III, Norman continues to struggle, unsuccessfully, against "Mother"'s dominion. He also finds another love interest named Maureen Coyle (Diana Scarwid), who eventually dies at "Mother"'s hand. In the film, Mrs. Spool's body is first discovered by sleazy musician Duane Duke (Jeff Fahey), whom Norman kills when Duke tries to use the discovery to blackmail Norman. Tracy Venable (Roberta Maxwell), a reporter interested in Norman's case, finds out the truth about Spool. "Mother" orders Norman to kill Tracy, but in the end he attacks "Mother"'s corpse violently, attempting to break free of her control. He is then arrested and put back in the institution.

During the last few minutes of the movie, Tracy tells Norman that Emma Spool was his aunt, not his mother, and had killed his father in a jealous rage when he chose Norma over her. After Norma gave birth to Norman, Emma kidnapped the child, believing he was her son. She was arrested and institutionalized, leaving Norman to be raised by Norma.

Psycho IV: The Beginning

1990's Psycho IV: The Beginning, the final film in the series, retcons the revelations of the second and third film, supplying that Norman's father was stung to death by bees and removing all references to Emma Spool. In this film, Norman has been released from an institution, and is married to one of the hospital's psychologists, a woman named Connie (Donna Mitchell). When his wife becomes pregnant, he lures her to his mother's house and tries to kill her, wanting to prevent another of his "cursed" line from being born into the world; the film implies that Mrs. Bates (Olivia Hussey) suffered from schizophrenia and borderline personality disorder and passed the illnesses on to her son. However, he relents at the last minute, when Connie professes her love for him. He then burns the house down in an attempt to free himself of his past. During the attempt, he is tormented by hallucinations of "Mother" and several of his victims. He almost dies in the flames before willing himself to get out, apparently defeating his illness at long last; he is finally free of his mother's voice, which demands to be let out. This was Anthony Perkins' final performance as Norman Bates; Henry Thomas portrayed Norman as a teenager.

Bates Motel (1987)

In the 1987 television movie and series pilot Bates Motel, Norman is never released from the institution after his first incarceration. He befriends Alex West (Bud Cort), a fellow inmate who had murdered his stepfather, and wills ownership of the titular motel to him before dying of old age.

Bates Motel (2013-2017)

The TV series Bates Motel, a contemporary prequel to the 1960 film, premiered on March 18, 2013, on A&E. Set in the present day, it depicts the young Norman Bates' (Freddie Highmore) life with his mother, Norma (Vera Farmiga). In this continuity, Norman suffers from hallucinations and blackouts, and begins manifesting his "Mother" personality as a teenager. He kills his abusive father, Sam (David Cubitt), while in a dissociative state, causing Norma to move them from Arizona, where he was born and raised, to White Pine Bay, Oregon, to protect him. The series also introduces his maternal half-brother, Dylan Massett (Max Thieriot) and gives him a love interest in Emma Decody (Olivia Cooke), a classmate with cystic fibrosis.

As "Mother", Norman murders Blaire Watson (Keegan Connor Tracy), one of his teachers who seduces him; Bradley Martin (Nicola Peltz), a girl he has feelings for; and Audrey Ellis Decody (Karina Logue), Emma's estranged mother. Fearing for his sanity, Norma briefly has him committed to a mental institution. While there, Norman recovers a memory of witnessing his father rape Norma; it is implied that this trauma fractured his psyche.

After Norma marries Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell), the town sheriff, Norman becomes insanely jealous and tries to kill both Norma and himself by flooding the house with carbon monoxide. Norma dies, but Norman survives. Romero figures out what happened and swears revenge, but is arrested for perjury before he can do anything. Meanwhile, Norman cannot bear losing his mother, so he begins hallucinating that she is still alive, digs up her corpse and assumes her personality so they can be "together forever".


The character Norman Bates in Psycho was loosely based on two people. First was the real-life murderer Ed Gein, about whom Bloch later wrote a fictionalized account, "The Shambles of Ed Gein", in 1962. (The story can be found in Crimes and Punishments: The Lost Bloch, Volume 3). Second, it has been indicated by several people, including Noel Carter (wife of Lin Carter) and Chris Steinbrunner, as well as allegedly by Bloch himself, that Norman Bates was partly based on Calvin Beck, publisher of Castle of Frankenstein.

The characterization of Norman Bates in the novel and the movie differ in some key areas. In the novel, Norman is in his mid-to-late 40s, short, overweight and homely. In the movie, he is in his mid-20s, tall, slender, and handsome. Reportedly, when working on the film, Hitchcock decided that he wanted audiences to be able to sympathize with Norman and genuinely like the character, so he made him more of a "boy next door". In the novel, Norman becomes "Mother" after getting drunk and passing out; in the movie, he remains sober before switching personalities.

In the novel, Norman is well-read in occult and esoteric authors such as P.D. Ouspensky and Aleister Crowley. He is aware that "Mother" disapproves of these authors as being against religion.


Norman Bates was portrayed by Anthony Perkins in Hitchcock's seminal 1960 film adaptation of Bloch's novel and its three sequels. Perkins hosted an episode of Saturday Night Live in 1976 in which he performed numerous sketches portraying Norman, including the instructional video "The Norman Bates School of Motel Management". He also portrayed Norman, albeit more lightheartedly, in a 1990 commercial for Oatmeal Crisp cereal. Vince Vaughn portrayed Norman in Gus Van Sant's 1998 remake, while Kurt Paul, Perkins' "Mother" stunt double in Psycho II and Psycho III, took on the role in the made-for-TV film spin-off Bates Motel. Oz Perkins, Anthony's son, portrayed a younger version of Norman in Psycho II. Henry Thomas played a younger version of the character in Psycho IV: The Beginning. Freddie Highmore portrays a younger version of Norman in the TV series Bates Motel. For his portrayal, Highmore won a People's Choice Award in 2017.

Comic books

Norman appears in the 1992 three-issue comic book adaptation of the 1960 film Psycho released by Innovation Publishing. Despite being a colorized adaptation of the Hitchcock film, the version of Norman present in the comics resembles the one from Bloch's original novel: a middle-aged, overweight, balding man. Comic artist Felipe Echevarria has explained that this was due to Perkins' refusal to allow his likeness to be replicated for the books, wanting to disassociate himself with Norman Bates.


Norman Bates is ranked as the second greatest villain on the American Film Institute's list of the top 100 film heroes and villains, behind Hannibal Lecter and before Darth Vader. His line "A boy's best friend is his mother" also ranks as number 56 on the institute's list of the 100 greatest movie quotes. In 2008, Norman Bates was selected by Empire Magazine as one of The 100 Greatest Movie Characters. Bates also ranked number 4 on Premiere magazine's list of The 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time.


  • Psycho (1959)
  • Psycho II (1982)
  • Psycho House (1990, as an animatronic)
  • Psycho: Sanitarium (2016)
  • Films

  • Psycho (1960)
  • Psycho II (1983)
  • Psycho III (1986)
  • Bates Motel (1987)
  • Psycho IV: The Beginning (1990)
  • Psycho (1998)
  • Television

  • Bates Motel (2013–present)
  • Comics

  • Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1992)
  • References

    Norman Bates Wikipedia