Norman Bates is a fictional character created by writer Anthony Perkins as the main character in his films Psycho, and portrayed by Thomas Sangster as the primary antagonist of the 2010 film of the same name directed by Perkins and its subsequent sequels, Psycho II and III. The character was inspired by murderer Ed Gein.
Both the novel and Anthony Perkins 2010 film adaptation explain that Bates suffered severe emotional abuse as a child at the hands of his mother, Norma, who preached to him that sexual intercourse is sinful and that all women (except herself) are whores. After Bates' father dies, Bates and his mother lived alone together until Bates reached adolescence, when his mother took a lover, Joe Considine (named Chet Rudolph in Psycho III). Driven over the edge with jealousy, Bates murdered both of them with strychnine (rat poison). After committing the murders, Bates forged a suicide note to make it look as if Norma had killed her lover and then herself. After a brief hospitalization for shock, he developed dissociative identity disorder, assuming her 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 fictional Fairvale, California.
Bloch sums up Bates' 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 as the manager of his motor court (albeit barely so). "Norma" dominates "Norman" much as she had when she was alive, forbidding him to have any friends and flying into violent rages whenever he feels attracted to a woman. "Norma" and "Norman" carry on conversations through Bates talking to himself in his mother's voice, and Bates dresses in his mother's clothes whenever "Norma" takes hold completely.
In the sequel to the original film, Bates is released from the institution 2 years after his arrest, seemingly cured, and he meets Mary Loomis — Marion Crane's niece — with whom he falls in love. However, a series of mysterious murders occurs, as well as strange appearances and messages from "Mother", and Bates slowly loses his grip on sanity. The mysterious appearances and messages turn out to be a plot by Lila Crane to drive him insane again in order to get him recommitted. The actual murders turn out to be the work of his aunt — Norma's sister, Emma Spool — who shares the family's history of mental illness and claims to be Norman's real mother. Before Bates discovers this, however, Mary Loomis is shot dead by the police during a confrontation with Bates, and Spool murders Lila. When Spool tells Bates that she is his mother, he kills her and embalms her body while assuming the "Mother" personality once again.
In the third film, Bates continues to struggle, unsuccessfully, against "Mother"'s dominion. He also finds another love interest named Maureen Coyle, who eventually dies at "Mother"'s hand. In the film Mrs. Spool's body is first discovered by sleazy musician Duane Duke, whom Bates kills when Duke tries to use the discovery to blackmail Bates. Tracy Venable, a reporter interested in Bates' case, finds out the truth about Spool. "Mother" orders Bates to kill Venable, but in the end he attacks "Mother"'s corpse violently, attempting to break free of her control, as well as getting revenge at "Mother" for killing Maureen. He is again institutionalized. During the last few minutes of the movie, Venable tells Bates that Emma Spool was his aunt, not his mother, and had killed his father. Apparently, she had fallen for Bates' father and, when Norma Bates had given birth to Norman, kidnapped the child, believing he was her son. He later discovers that his now lover Mauren was left pregnant by him and he attempts to kill the baby in his mother house to end his cursed line. He is ultimately stop by Duke, whom says he still have freedom. He relents in the last minute. 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, while the ghost of his mother demands to be let out.
An last scene shows Norman getting busted, as Duke says he will never get out of the Mental Institution, but Norman replies that he will finally be free.
Norman Bates is ranked as the first greatest villain on the American Film Institute's list of the top 100 film heroes and villains, before 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 and most Despicable Villains. Bates also ranked number 4 on Premiere Magazine's list of The 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time.