Taxi Driver (1976)

taxi driver movie poster robert deniro
10 Overall Score
Story: 10/10
Acting: 10/10
Visuals: 10/10

Deniro's best, great character that is deep and worth exploring


Movie Info

Movie Name:  Taxi Driver

Studio:  Bill/Phillips/Italo/Judeo Productions

Genre(s):  Drama

Release Date(s):  February 8, 1976

MPAA Rating:  R

taxi driver are you talkin to me robert de niro

“Are You Talkin’ to Me?!?!”

Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) can’t sleep.  He has taken a taxi driving job at night to burn off his mental steam.  He doesn’t care who he drives and he doesn’t care where he goes…he just drives.  When Travis meets Betsy (Cybill Shepherd) who works for the up-and-coming candidate Charles Palantine (Leonard Harris), Travis believes he has found love…whether she likes it or not.  Travis spirals down a path of destruction, but a connection to a young prostitute named Iris (Jodie Foster) could be his redemption.

Directed by Martin Scorsese, Taxi Driver is a dark drama.  The movie was released to critical acclaim and became a source of infamy when John Hinckley Jr. claimed Jodie Foster’s role in the movie inspired him to try to assassinate Ronald Reagan on March 30, 1981.  The film was nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor (De Niro), Best Supporting Actress (Foster), and Best Original Score.  It is frequently placed on “Best Of” lists and was admitted to the National Film Registry in 1994 by the Library of Congress.

taxi driver travis betsy porn movie cybill shepherd robert de niro

That awkward moment when the creepy stalking guy takes you to a porn on your first date…

Taxi Driver was one of those first “real” films I can remember seeing.  It was a movie that was layered, somewhat artsy, but also attainable.  It was a movie you could watch, dissect, and rewatch for more questions and answers…and it remains a movie like that.  Taxi Driver is one of the greats.

You could argue that there is very little story to Taxi Driver and that would be true in a sense that it is very character driven.  The Bickle character is so deftly written that he feels like he’s based on a character with a massive background and history.  The character embodies the bitterness of the time by lashing out (misguided) at targets like the government (still recovering from the Watergate scandal), crime and society (he’s a vet working in a dirty world he was protecting), and the protection of innocence (a lot like Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye).  It is a twisted and curvy path of logic from an illogical (and crazy) guy.  Some see the ending of the movie as a fevered dream as Bickle is dying, but I see it as it is played out…we’re a society that makes heroes out of people who were never meant to be heroes despite heroic actions.

taxi driver iris pimp fingernail harvey keitel jodie foster

Skeevy pimp dance

De Niro is perfect as Bickle.  He wasn’t a real name when he was selected but then won the Oscar for The Godfather Part II.  Like De Niro, Foster wasn’t the director’s first choice as Iris but she also works.  She was twelve, and her sister stood-in for some of the scenes but the fact that she was a child actress also helped give her a more innocent feel.  The movie was written with Cybill Shepherd in mind as Betsy, and they said “why don’t we just cast Cybill Shepherd for the role?”  The movie also makes great use of some minor characters played by Peter Boyle, Albert Brooks, and Martin Scorsese himself as one of Travis’ fares.

taxi driver ending travis bickle bloody robert de niro

Got to love a happy ending!

What also sells Taxi Driver is the visuals.  Not only are many of the shots and scenes iconic (like the classic “are you talkin’ to me” mirror scene), but the movie makes perfect use out of New York City.  New York City was a filthy, dirty, and dangerous place when the movie was made and Bickle both fits in and is an outsider in the world.  The city is another character…just like the great score.

Taxi Driver is one those great movies that show you what movies can be.  It is very literary and full of complex characters that are just as real and developed as characters in a novel.  Travis Bickle is one of the cinema’s greatest characters and worthy of study.  There have been talks of a sequel (which thankfully hasn’t happened) but the screenwriter Paul Schrader does see his films American Gigolo (1980), Light Sleeper (1992), and The Walker (2007) as spiritual successors to Taxi Driver.  See a great film and check out Taxi Driver…yes, I’m talkin’ to you.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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