Taxi Driver (1976)

Cinematography Michael Chapman
Directed by Martin Scorsese

Travis Bickle, a 26-year-old honorably discharged U.S. Marine, is a lonely, depressed young man living on his own in New York City. He becomes a taxi driver to cope with his chronic insomnia, driving passengers every night around the city’s boroughs. He also spends time in seedy porn theaters and keeps a diary. Travis becomes infatuated with Betsy, a campaign volunteer for Senator and presidential candidate Charles Palantine. After watching her interact with fellow worker Tom through her window, Travis enters to volunteer as a pretext to talk to her, and takes her out for coffee. On a later date, he takes her to see a Swedish sex education film, which offends her, and she goes home alone. His attempts at reconciliation by sending flowers are rebuffed, so he berates her at the campaign office, before being kicked out by Tom.

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Travis confides in fellow taxi driver Wizard about his thoughts, which are beginning to turn violent, but Wizard assures him that he will be fine, leaving Travis to his own destructive path. Travis is disgusted by the sleaze, dysfunction, and prostitution that he witnesses throughout the city, and attempts to find an outlet for his frustrations by beginning a program of intense physical training. A fellow taxi driver refers Travis to illegal gun dealer Easy Andy, from whom he buys a number of handguns. At home, Travis practices drawing his weapons and constructs a sleeve gun to hide and then quickly deploy a gun from his sleeve. One night, Travis enters a convenience store moments before an attempted armed robbery and he shoots and kills the robber. The shop owner takes responsibility for the shooting, taking Travis’ handgun. On another night, child prostitute Iris enters Travis’s cab, attempting to escape her pimp Matthew “Sport” Higgins.

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Sport drags Iris from the cab and throws Travis a crumpled twenty-dollar bill, which continually reminds him of her and the corruption that surrounds him. Some time later, Travis hires Iris, but instead of having sex with her, attempts to dissuade her from continuing in prostitution. He fails to completely turn her from her course, but she does agree to meet with him for breakfast the next day. Travis leaves a letter to Iris at his apartment saying he will soon be dead, with money for her to return home.

After shaving his head into a mohawk, Travis attends a public rally, where he plans to assassinate Senator Palantine, but Secret Service agents notice him with his hand in his coat and chase him. He flees and later goes to the East Village to invade Sport’s brothel. A violent gunfight ensues and Travis kills Sport, a bouncer, and a mafioso. Travis is severely injured with multiple gunshot wounds. Iris witnesses the fight and is hysterical with fear, pleading with Travis to stop the killing. After the gunfight, Travis attempts suicide, but has run out of ammunition and resigns himself to lying on a sofa until police arrive. When they do, he places his index finger against his temple gesturing the act of shooting himself.

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Travis, having recovered from his wounds and returning to work, praised by favorable press reports for hitting the bad guys, receives a letter from Iris’ father thanking him for saving her life and revealing that she has returned home to Pittsburgh, where she is going to school. Later, he also reconciles with Betsy when dropping her off at home in his cab. As she tries to pay her fare, Travis simply smiles at her, turns off the meter and drives off.

An Unforgettable Movie and Lead Character

3 April 2006 | by ccthemovieman-1 (United States) – See all my reviews

“Travis Bickle” has to be one of the most fascinating characters ever put on film, and this has to still rank as one of the best post-film noir era “noirs” ever made.

Yeah the story is a bit seedy but it’s an incredibly interesting portrait of a mentaly unbalanced cab driver (Bickle, played by Robert De Niro) and his obsessions with “cleaning up” New York City.

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In addition to De Niro’s stunning performance, we see a young and gorgeous Cybill Shepherd and a very, very young (12 years old) Jodie Foster. I’ve always wondered what kind of parents would allow their 12-year-old daughter to play a role like this, but that’s another subject. Albert Brooks, Harvey Keitel (with shoulder-length hair!) and Peter Boyle all lend good supporting help.

Bickle’s transformation from a “disturbed” cabbie to a fully-deranged assassin is fantastic to watch, and includes one of the classic scenes in all film history: Bickle talking to the mirror and repeating the question, “You talking’ to me?” That scene, and seeing De Niro in a Mohawk haircut later at a political rally are two scenes I’ll never forget.

The more times I’ve watched this, the more I appreciate the cinematography and the music in here. There are some wonderful night shots of the city’s oil and rain-slicked streets. Also, Bernard Herrmann eerie soundtrack is an instrumental part of the success of this film and should never be neglected in discussing this film.

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Director Martin Scorcese has made a number of well-known (but not particularly box-office successful) films, and I still think this early effort of his was his best. He’s never equaled it, although I think he and De Niro almost pulled it off five years later with another whacked-out character, “Rupert Pupkin” In “The King Of Comedy.”

In any case, there is no debate that Scorcese and De Niro are a great team and that Taxi Driver is one of the most memorable movies of the Seventies.

Disturbing, powerful, relevant, important

10/10
Author: Drew (andrew7@erols.com) from New Brunswick, NJ USA
17 November 1999
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A towering classic of American cinematic power. Martin Scorsese teams up with one of the most intense actors of that time to create a masterpiece of urban alienation. Paul Schrader’s magnificent script paints a portrait of loneliness in the largest city of the world. Travis never once enters into a meaningful relationship with any character anywhere in the film. He is the most hopelessly alone person I’ve ever encountered on film.

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He is alone with his thoughts, and his thoughts are dark ones. The film fools you on a first viewing. Is Travis an endearing eccentric? Sure, he’s odd, but he’s so polite, and he’s got a quirky sense of humor. His affection for Betsy is actually rather endearing. But on a second view, you see it for what it is. The audience comes to see Travis’s psychosis gradually, but there’s actually far less development than one might think. When he talks about cleaning up the city, the repeat viewer knows he doesn’t mean some sort of Giuliani-facelift. This is less a film about a character in development as it is a kind of snapshot. To be sure, it takes the stimulus to provoke the response, but does that imply some kind of central change in the character?

Tremendous supporting roles are brought to life through vivid performances by Keitel and Foster especially. Shepard’s character, Betsy, is little more than a foil to highlight Travis’s utter alienation from society, but she is still impeccably portrayed. With only two scenes that don’t center on Travis, it is unavoidably De Niro’s show.

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The life with which the supporting cast imbues their characters is a credit to themselves, and to the director’s willingness to let the film develop from the intersection of diverse ideas and approaches. What would the plot lose by eliminating the Albert Brooks character (Tom)? Nothing at all. He makes almost no impact on Travis’s life, which is where the plot lives. But his inclusion makes the film as a whole much richer and fuller.

As a piece of American cinema history, this film will live forever. But far more important than that, this film will survive as a universal, ever-relevant examination of the workings of the alienated mind. The story doesn’t end when the credits roll. We know Travis will snap again. But the story doesn’t end with Travis either. It continues today in the cities and in the schools. The film is about the brutal power of the disaffected mind.

This film didn’t cause the incidents in Colombine, or Hawaii, or Seattle, or wherever you care to look, even with all of its disturbing images of violence. It didn’t cause those things. It predicted them.

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A story about a lonely man

Author: David Antonio from Spain
16 May 2004

Taxi Driver is one of the best films ever made. This is one of those films that you do not get tired of seeing and every time you watch it you realize a little detail that you have not seen before. Excellent actors, a good director, an impressive soundtrack and a real story are the main appeals of this film.

This film is about loneliness, about the isolation of a man in a society full of scum. His objective is to finish with the scum of the streets.

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The story uses a taxi driver as a metaphor of loneliness and it has some kind of irony because we can see that a city which is full of people can be the most lonely place for a man. The long nights in the city, the night environment full of whores, junkies, pimps and thieves are the main elements of the world in which Travis Bickle lives. Travis is an misunderstood guy who is seeking desperately for some kind of company because as he says ‘loneliness has followed me all my life, everywhere’ but at the same time he seems not to do anything to avoid his situation and it is seen when he goes with Betsy (Cybill Shepherd) to a porn cinema. At the end of the film the character makes real his most violent fantasies, with a look of certain soldiers from Vietnam, and he behaves like this because of his loneliness, his alienation and because he does not find any sense to his life. The violent behaviour becomes Travis into a hero, although he had killed many people and he could do it again. Although he acts with an extreme violence the spectator understand him and the reasons why he acts that way.

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The soundtrack of the film, which is composed by Bernard Herrmann, inspires some kind of loneliness and sometimes it is absolutely terrifying like in a horror film. This music and the slow camera showing the streets help to introduce the spectator into the world of Travis, to know what he is thinking about.

In general I cannot say any negative aspect of this film because I have not found anything bad. Although it is a film of the 70s it is not an old-fashioned movie because the essence of the story, the reality that is shown on it, can be perfectly referred to the current society. This film has the privilege of having made famous the sentence ‘You talking’ to me? You talking’ to me?’ which will remain in the history of cinema. This is an authentic masterpiece.

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A wonderfully engaging and convincing slide into a modern madness from a director and actor showing some of their best form

Author: bob the moo from United Kingdom
13 February 2006

Travis Bickle is a Vietnam veteran who cannot sleep at night and just ends up travelling around. To try and use the time effectively he becomes a taxi driver. Things start to look up for him as he works nights and slowly starts to live a little bit. He meets a girl, Betsy, and arranges to see her a few times despite the fact that he is a little bit out of the ordinary – a quality that seems to interest her. His connection to the night allows him to see young prostitute Iris being bullied by her pimp Matthew and he begins to see his role to perhaps save her – him playing his part in cleaning up the sewer that he feels New York has become. However when his view of normal life puts Betsy off him he starts to retreat more and more into the night, looking for meaning in his life and growing more and more outraged by the world he is part of.

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Hardly the most uplifting of films it is engaging and impressive and truly deserves the reputation it has. Martin Scorsese and Paul Schrader have produced a film that convincingly portrays a man cut out of society who has the slightest connection to normality before finding it eroded away. The script is brilliant because the detail is engaging but it is this descent into a very modern type of madness that drives the film forward. Travis has just enough about him that is recognisable that it makes it so easy to go along with the rest of his madness. A major part of this is getting the feeling right about living in a cesspit; a city that seems to have forgotten its way morally – New York is the strongest example but elements of it could be parts of any city I suspect. In painting this world in such a real way, Scorsese has made Travis all the more convincing and, to a point, all the easier to follow in his fall. Like I said it is not a film to morally uplift you but one that is depressingly fair. There is no redemption in this modern world and although it appears that the violence at the end somehow redeems Travis in reality by showing “society” accepting his action it drags the rest of us down nearer the world that he hates and has become part of. I love King of Comedy for the same reason albeit in a different world.

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Scorsese injects a real understanding of the place and a real sense of foreboding into even the earliest scenes. He inserts clever and meaningful shots into scenes that other directors might just have filmed straight and his choice of scene and shot compliments the script is depicting Travis descending into madness. What makes the film even better is De Niro showing the type of form that makes his recent form such a major disappointment. He is outstanding as he moves Travis from being relatively normal to being eaten up from the inside out. His eventual implosion is impressive but it is only as impressive as the gradual slide he depicts over the course of the film. Although he dominates it, others impress as well. Foster stands out in a small role, while Keitel makes a good impression as the pimp. Shepherd is not quite as good but her character was not as well written as the others so it isn’t all down to her. Regardless, the film belongs to De Niro and although the quotable scenes are the ones that are remembered it is in the quieter moments where he excels and shows genuine talent and understanding.

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Overall an impressive and morally depressing film that deserves its place in cinematic history. The portrayal of a city and a man slipping into moral insanity is convincing and engaging and it shows how well to “do” modern madness and the effects of the moral void of parts of society. Scorsese directs as a master despite this being at an early stage in his career and De Niro is chillingly effective as he simply dominates the film in quiet moments and quotable moments alike. I rarely use phrases like “modern classic” because I think they are lazy but this is one film that certainly deserves such a label.

Scorsese’s dark masterpiece of urban alienation

10/10
Author: TomC-5 from Jersey City, NJ
2 November 1999

Despite what some might see as limited by technical flaws and/or as an overly simplistic plot, Taxi Driver deserves its critical reputation as a cinematic masterpiece. Some 23 years later, the existential plight of Travis Bickle, “God’s lonely man,” continues to pack a hard emotional punch. In fact, it’s hard to know where to begin when praising the elements of this film – such elements as the dark location shots of a (now gone) seedy Times Square, the cinema verite settings of the cabbies and campaign workers, the magnificent Bernard Hermann score, Paul Schrader’s fine script, the memorable performances of Jodie Foster, Harvey Keitel, and Peter Boyle all must be mentioned. However, the brilliance of this film is primarily a result of the brilliance of De Niro and Scorsese, one of the greatest actor-director teams in movie history. This is an unforgettable film and rates a 10 out of 10, in my estimation.

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Diary of a madman

10/10
Author: francois chevallier (francheval@noos.fr) from Paris, France
13 February 2006

The script of “Taxi Driver” is built like a diary, the diary of a very ordinary guy who gets hired as a night taxi driver back from Vietnam, because he can’t sleep at night. A very ordinary guy who tries to break his isolation, but can’t, while violence accumulates inside him. One of those unnoticed people with dark things on their mind, one of those who break up the news one day with some extraordinary outburst of rage, to fall back immediately into anonymity.

The gradual transformation of man into beast in this movie is chilling. It’s still funny and pathetic when the hero threatens himself in front of the mirror (“you’re talking to me?”), but when he comes out with a mohawk hairdo and dark glasses, it is obvious that nasty stuff is going to take place. As in “A Clockwork Orange”, violence is recuperated by society depending on what purpose it is used for. Whereas he was about to murder the candidate for presidency, “god’s lonely man” fails and instead kills a vicious pimp who exploits teenage prostitutes. The potential criminal becomes a hero for a day.

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Such stories happen everywhere of course, but it seems that the bewildering atmosphere of New York City’s summer night was the best choice. “Taxi Driver” gives us a very realistic approach of New York, in a way that is not seen on screen so often, at least not anymore, whilst that city is probably the one in the world that has been filmed the biggest number of times.

Most of the movie takes place at night. The credits open on the blazing lights of the yellow taxi cab moving slowly in the dark rainy streets. A kaleidoscope of neonlight appears through the dripping windows as the driver’s eyes blink in the front mirror. The night is the hero’s universe, it’s the time when “all the animals come out”, as he says. By contrast, the few daylight scenes look somewhat off-key, but this was definitely intentional.

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The final scene still appears today as extremely violent, but at least, it shows murder for what it is. Brutal, ugly, crude. It is something one tends to forget about after seeing so many police series where people get shot so often that it gets casual. Real violence is not casual when you face it, and here is a film that makes you face it.

The directing is first class and deservedly made path for Scorsese as a world renowned artist. Some techniques he used here are unusual for American cinema, like focusing on details for a few seconds. The movie is enhanced by an excellent music soundtrack by jazz composer Bernard Herrman who died before the picture was even released.

Two of the actors also deservedly made it to stardom. Robert de Niro plays a very unglamorous character, but his presence on screen is so intense that it’s no wonder it made such an impression. As for Jodie Foster, she already appeared in films as a child, but playing a teenage prostitute was certainly not an easy challenge, and probably it was that role that really turned her into a major actress.

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“Taxi Driver” was a big hit when it came out, both for the public and the critics. It won the Palme d’Or in Cannes, and served as a trend setter for many later films, like for instance Quentin Tarantino’s and Abel Ferrara’s. But even today, the original model seems difficult to emulate, probably because achieving a masterpiece is a rare thing, by definition.

Ladies and gentlemen: Mr. Robert De Niro!

10/10
Author: Kristine (kristinedrama14@msn.com) from Chicago, Illinois
20 November 2003
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Taxi Driver, the classic that made Robert DeNiro Robert DeNiro. It’s amazing to see how far this man has come in cinema, some of my friends ask me questions about films and advice, one of my friends had asked if they wanted to see where Bobby got the big notice I usually recommend Taxi Driver, granted he was in The Godfather Part 2 and was incredible, but Taxi Driver made him stand out as a strong lead actor. Taxi Driver is just all together a great film that is absolutely perfection. Martin Scorcesse who also was just really starting out made this movie that brought us back to the film noir genre. He made this great classic and I don’t even think he realized how much it would stand against the test of time, to this day we still know this film and even if you don’t know it, you know the infamous speech “You talking’ to me?”. This is a film about isolation, loneliness, and self destruction at it’s worst.

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Travis Bickle who claims to be an honorably discharged Marine it is implied that he is a Vietnam veteran is a lonely and depressed young man of 26. He settles in Manhattan, where he becomes a night time taxi driver due to chronic insomnia. Bickle spends his restless days in seedy porn theaters and works 12 or 14 hour shifts during the evening and night time hours carrying passengers among all five boroughs of New York City. Bickle becomes interested in Betsy, a campaign volunteer for New York Senator Charles Palantine. She is initially intrigued by Bickle and agrees to a date with him after he flirts with her over coffee and sympathizes with her own apparent loneliness. On their date, however, Bickle is clueless about how to treat a woman and thinks it would be a good idea to take her to a sex film. Offended, she leaves him and takes a taxi home alone. The next day he tries to reconcile with Betsy, phoning her and sending her flowers, but all of his attempts are in vain. Rejected and depressed, Bickle’s thoughts begin to turn violent.

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Disgusted by the petty street crime that he witnesses while driving through the city, he now finds a focus for his frustration and begins a program of intense physical training. He buys a number of pistols from an illegal dealer and practices a menacing speech in the mirror, while pulling out a pistol that he attached to a home-made sliding action holster on his right arm “You talking’ to me?”. Bickle is revolted by what he considers the moral decay around him. One night while on shift, Iris, a 12-year-old child prostitute, gets in his cab, attempting to escape her pimp. Shocked by the occurrence, Bickle fails to drive off and the pimp, Sport, reaches the cab. Later seeing Iris on the street he pays for her time, although he does not have sex with her and instead tries to convince her to leave this way of life behind. But after her rejection as well, Travis decides to take things into his own hands, “Pow!”.

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This is one of the most memorable movies of all time and has really stood it’s ground. It’s personally one of my favorites and made me fall in love with Robert DeNiro all over again. The script to Taxi Driver is just so incredibly powerful and the performances were just perfect. Jodie Foster, this little girl at the time was such a presence on screen, she pulls in what was a very tricky performance and was hauntingly beautiful. Cybill Sheppard was also very beautiful and I was absolutely in love with her character and felt so bad for her. Everything about Taxi Driver is just great, I don’t know how much I could go on about the love I have for this film. It’s a film that you will never forget and trust me, if you haven’t seen it, go out and rent it immediately, you won’t regret it. It’s bloody, it’s twisted, it’s crazy, but it’s one of the best films of all time.

10/10

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A Triumph of Pure Filmaking

10/10
Author: johnpaulz (johnpaulzpt@yahoo.com) from los angeles, CA
13 April 2002
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Despite having an unsurpassed shoot-out bloodbath and despite having a timeless and touching storyline, the aspect that I like most about Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver is the music. Bernard Herrmann, who died shortly after completing the score, provides a melancholy feeling to the movie. This is perfect because Travis Bickle’s loneliness is the heart of the story.

Robert DeNiro’s performance in Taxi Driver as Travis Bickle is one of the best I have ever seen. DeNiro does every pause, smirk, and stare in exactly the right time. He transformed a despicable and psychotic character into a lonely and desperate man, who the audience can relate and understand. His scenes talking to himself in the mirror is entertaining, at the same time, terrifying.

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Travis Bickle is a Vietnam veteran who cannot sleep at nights, so he decided to work long shifts at night driving a taxicab. As Travis drives around New York City, his feelings and emotion soon show: he is disgusted and angry at sleaze in the world, he hates pimps, and he is prejudiced against blacks.

Travis then falls to a beautiful campaign worker named Betsy (Cybill Shepherd), and he persuaded her to go on a date with him. Betsy is clearly intrigued by Travis’ character, so she agreed. Their relationship is going well, but when Travis made a mistake on bringing her to an X-rated movie, she decided to ignore him.

In a later conversation with a fellow cab driver named Wizard (Peter Boyle), it is shown that Travis is on verge of going psychotic. The next sequences show Scorsese’s genius. We clearly see how Travis slowly creates his plans and how he prepares himself. DeNiro’s narration shows signs of breakdown, saying things like `here is a man who cannot take it anymore’ and `loneliness has followed me all my life.’

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Travis also befriends a twelve-year-old prostitute named Iris, played by a young Jodie Foster. Travis tries to convince her that she is hanging out with scums, and that she should be at school and making friends. One of the best acting scenes I have seen is when Travis talks with Iris in a restaurant. As Travis tries to convince Iris to give up prostitution, she manages to keep a steady face but clearly is suffering inside. Travis’ emotion is clearly anger but he tries to hold it because he does not want to scare Iris. Foster and DeNiro play the scene with wonderful realism and emotion.

Taxi Driver is a good example of how great a film can be if it was made by talented persons. Paul Schrader’s script is intense, Martin Scorsese’s direction is watertight, Bernard Herrmann’s music is beautiful, and the actors’ acting is superb. Taxi Driver can relate to a lot of people and clearly is one of the greatest movies of all time.

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