Psycho movie cover Movie Locations Guide

Where was Psycho filmed?

1998

About Psycho

Unless you’re a fan of classic black-and-white films, there’s a huge chance you haven’t seen the Psycho thriller movie yet. If that’s the case, this guide will help you get acquainted with this must-watch film of the 1960s. We’ve also included some interesting scenes from the movie (spoiler alert!) and highlighted several Psycho locations worth exploring today. It can always be fascinating to tour every Psycho filming location and see how they changed over the decades.

For those who aren’t familiar with this 1960 horror classic, Psycho is an American suspense movie and psychological thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock. It is considered one of Hitchcock’s best movies of all time and the beginning of modern horror films.

The story begins when secretary Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) embezzles $40,000 from a client that her employer entrusted her to put in the bank. She sees this as an opportunity to start a new life, so she takes the money and runs away.

Caught in a storm, Marion checks into a small motel and meets the owner and manager, Norman Bates. They quickly get acquainted as the latter prepares some sandwiches and milk for her, and he opens up about his situation with his ill mother.

His mother appears to be abusive to him, but he stresses that though he hates what she has become, he doesn’t hate her mother at all. When she returns to her room, Marion heads to the shower, unsuspecting of the tragedy waiting for her.

Meanwhile, back in Fairvale, people around Marion start looking for her, including her sister, Lila Crane (Vera Miles). She comes to the hardware store where Sam Loomis (John Gavin) is working, and their frantic search eventually leads them to the Bates home.

Ultimately, they discover the secret that lies within the Bates Mansion, Norman’s mother, and the truth behind Marion’s disappearance. They realize Norman’s dark, layered, and murderous character.

City Locations

Phoenix, AZ, Universal City, CA

Location Types

House, American, Hotels/Motels, Studios

Location Styles

Americana/Anywhere America, Hotel/Motel Style, Old Hollywood, Station wagon, Classic Car

Psycho Locations

The setup of Psycho is in a fictional town, Fairvale, in California. This fictitious place is located approximately fifteen miles from the Bates Motel. However, the movie was actually shot in Phoenix, Arizona, and California.

Universal Studios Hollywood at 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, California, served as the primary location for the Psycho production. It did not receive a lot of financial support because it was viewed as a commercial failure, which proved otherwise after its release. So instead of shooting on location, the cast and crew had to use much of the Universal Studios lot and record the essential and best scenes in Psycho there.

But thanks to the film’s success, the Bates Mansion and Motel became a famous attraction of the Studios tour at Universal Studios Hollywood in the 1960s. The house was initially built as a façade with only the front and left side. The back and ride side were only added in 1964, four years after its release as part of the new Studio Tour, calling it ‘The Psycho House.’

Apart from the sound stages built on the Universal Studios backlot, several scenes were also filmed on location – ones that won’t require much from the production budget. It includes shots of the freeway and the Phoenix skyline.

Fun fact:

Psycho was a risky production, shot on a tiny budget. It wasn’t expected to be a huge success, and there were doubts surrounding the movie before it was released. Paramount was sure it would fail, but much to their surprise, it became Hitchcock’s biggest commercial success.

The hotel scene in Psycho

Barrister Place/ Jefferson Hotel, Phoenix, Arizona

The movie opens with an aerial shot of Phoenix, Arizona, indicating that it’s Friday, December 11 at 2:43 P.M. Then, it leads us through an open window of a big hotel where we witness an intimate moment between Sam Loomis (John Gavin) and his lover Marion Crane (Janet Leigh).

Located in the heart of downtown, Barrister Place served as a backdrop for this scene. It opened to public fanfare in 1915 as the Jefferson Hotel and has since housed various city operations. It was the tallest building in Arizona at that time, but when the city bought the building in 1990, it became vacant for years.

The Barrister Place Building is beloved for its unique history, including being featured in Psycho. However, it was sold to a company a few years ago to transform it into retail and housing. The project is called Jefferson Place, which will include two new buildings and at least 88 condos in the 6-story building.

If you plan to go on a tour to explore this Psycho filming location, you might immediately recognize the building, though it isn’t one of the tallest in the area. Its exterior didn’t look much different from how it was depicted in the movie.

While there, take the opportunity to discover downtown Phoenix and see what the city has to offer. Check the Phoenix Transit Bus and Valley Metro Rail for schedule, as they run from central Phoenix to downtown and other areas in and around the city.

The cop approaches Marion scene in Psycho

Golden State Freeway, Gorman, north of LA

It’s probably one of the most intense scenes for Marion when a police officer approaches her after finding her sleeping in her car on the side of the road. She runs away with her boss’ money, so imagine her anxiety when the officer finds her suspicious, as “she’s acting like there’s something wrong.” Eventually, the officer lets her go, but she still can’t relax because it seems like he’s tailing her until she goes to the car lot.

If you drive down the Golden State Freeway (I-5) at Gorman, north of LA, pay attention to your surroundings, and you might find the road familiar. That’s because it served as the setting for this scene in Psycho.

There’s probably nothing much to see in this filming location of Psycho. Still, it’s worth stopping by or taking a picture of the scenery when you’re in the area. If you’re not driving, buses 158, 166, 364, and 239 have routes that pass near the Golden State Freeway.

Marion trades her car scene in Psycho

MINI of University City, North Hollywood, CA

Shaken by her encounter with the police officer on the road, Marion goes to the used car lot to change her vehicle. When the owner quotes an old saying, “The first customer of the day is always the most trouble,” he doesn’t have any clue of the trouble his client is getting herself into.

This California Charlie’s car dealership scene was filmed at the former Harry Maher's Used Car Lot. It is still in operation today, though under a different name. The car lot is now home to MINI of University City, a MINI dealership at Lankershim Boulevard in North Hollywood. It takes pride in maintaining the country’s largest inventory of MINI coopers, located near Universal Studios.

Don’t expect it to look like it did in 1960 when the movie was filmed, or you’ll be disappointed. Since a lot has changed over the years, it’s hard to identify the exact spot where filming of the used car lot took place.

When planning to visit, buses 155, 222, 224, 237, and 94 have routes that pass near Lankershim Blvd. You can also take the B Line (Red), which runs between downtown LA and North Hollywood.

Bates motel scene in Psycho

Universal Studios Hollywood, California

Marion drives out of town with the money she stole and the new car she swapped at the car dealership. But because it’s dark and heavily raining, she doesn’t have a choice but to check in at the Bates Motel along the road under the alias Marie Samuels. Here, she meets Norman Bates, who owns and runs the motel.

In the movie, Bates Motel is on an old highway about 15 miles from Fairvale, from which Marion tries to escape. It doesn’t receive many visitors, so Norman is happy to accommodate his lone guest.

You might be surprised to know that it isn’t a real motel. It was never an operating motel, but a built Psycho film set designed for Hitchcock's movie. Its exterior was borrowed from existing sets and was initially two-walled, made to be filmed for certain angles only. It became a major draw for the famous Universal Tram Tour during the 60s and 70s. Despite that, it was dismantled in 1980 to be used for another production.

You can’t find the original set used for the motel, as it has been rebuilt many times over the years. But you can still visit on a Studio Tour. It’s an entertaining adventure worth experiencing.

There have also been a few replicas of Bates Motel built outside Universal Studios. It includes the one in Nevada, which was established in 2010 to celebrate the original movie’s 50th anniversary.

The Psycho House scene in Psycho

Universal Studios Hollywood, California

The big house first appears when Marion ends up in the motel, as it’s adjacent to the infamous Bates Motel. It is the home of Norman and his housebound mother, who has been ill and Norman couldn’t abandon. You’ll also see it as Norman leaves his office and heads home after his talk with Marion and multiple times throughout the film.

Like the motel, the Psycho house isn’t an existing residence site but a set constructed for the movie. Instead, the scenes featuring the house beside the motel were filmed on the Universal Studios backlot. The interior scenes for the mansion were filmed in Stage 28, while the interior shots for the motel were taken in Stage 18.

The notorious Psycho house still exists today and can be visited on tour at the Universal Studios lot. However, it is highly questionable whether it was the actual house featured in the original movie or simply a reconstructed version of Norman Bates’ residence.

Nevertheless, visiting the scary mansion will still give you a memorable experience. For the movie and horror fans, it’s like stepping into Norman’s abode. Seeing it in real life, as opposed to watching it on screen, can definitely send some tingles down your spine.

The sinking car scene in Psycho

Old False Lake, Universal Studios Hollywood, California

After cleaning the crime scene inside his motel, Norman put the victim’s body in the back of the car and drove to the swamp. Then he disposes of the car, with Marion and all her belongings inside. He waits and watches as the car sinks, slowly disappearing on the surface, burying the evidence of the murder.

It is said that this scene was supposed to be filmed on location. But due to budget constraints, the filmmakers didn’t go far and recorded it on the Universal Studios backlot at the Old False Lake. It was formerly situated near the Psycho House location.

Falls Lake was constructed in 1926 for the Universal cult classic Uncle Tom’s Cabin. In 1986, it went under renovation to build a backdrop for the 1987 Horror/Thriller, Jaws: The Revenge. Thanks to its large open area, featuring a backdrop and large water tank, it’s regularly used for films, shows, and other large productions. In fact, it has been featured in many famous TV series and movies, as well as music videos.

Conclusion

You’re lucky should you decide to visit the film sites of this classic psychological horror and thriller film. That’s because most of the Psycho production took place in the Universal Studios backlot. It means you can save those long, tiring tips and go to a single location but be able to explore many of the Psycho filming sites in one go.

Not only can you see the legendary Psycho House and Bates Motel, but also explore over 400 acres of the historic studio lot. An hour tour will allow you to get an exclusive look at what happens behind the scenes of your favorite films and TV shows apart from Psycho. You’ll also listen to knowledgeable guides, get entertaining insights into the film industry, and discover the largest street film set in the history of Hollywood.