Taxi Driver

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
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"On every street in every city, there's a nobody who dreams of being a somebody."
"Loneliness has followed me my whole life. Everywhere. In bars, in cars, sidewalks, stores, everywhere. There's no escape. I am God's lonely man."
Travis Bickle

One of Martin Scorsese's most famous movies, made in 1976 and written by Paul Schrader­. It's the story of Travis Bickle, an insomniac and depressed New York City cab driver who becomes obsessed with cleansing the city of human "trash" and goes insane.

The film is notable for being one of Robert De Niro's first massive roles and for Jodie Foster's breakout role, as a child prostitute. Cybill Shepard, Harvey Keitel, Albert Brooks, and Peter Boyle also appear in the film, and Bernard Herrmann composed the music score (his last).

Not to be confused with Adventures of a Taxi Driver, an Awful British Sex Comedy that came out at about the same time.

Tropes used in Taxi Driver include:
  • Anti-Hero: Travis Bickle practically invented the modern anti-hero. Travis is a Type V.
  • Asshole Victim: We're not supposed to cheer the carnage but Travis' victims (Robbers and pimps) do fall under this category.
  • Author Avatar: Travis for Paul Schrader, though Schrader obviously never went on a shooting spree (that we know of, anyway).
  • Ax Crazy: Travis by the end of the movie.
    • One could easily make the case that Travis was insane from the very beginning.
      • He was insane, but he wasn't violent until he actually bought his guns.
  • Basement Dweller: Of the gun-idolizing, hero-complexing psychopath variety.
  • Beware the Quiet Ones: You'd better not provoke him.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Travis fantasizes about being one for months leading up to his eventual rampage. It's one reason people think the ending is entirely in his imagination as he's dying.
  • Black Blood: In order to attain an R rating, Scorsese had to desaturate the shootout scene, making the blood a dull pink rather than bright red. (General consensus is that the muted colors work in the scene's favor.)
  • Book Ends
  • Byronic Hero: Travis.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Travis uses every single weapon he buys.
  • City Noir: Most examples of City Noir in film draw inspiration from this one.
  • Cool Shades: Travis' famous Aviator Ray ban's.
  • Crapsack World: This is the worst New York has looked outside of apocalyptic science fiction.
  • Creator Cameo: Scorsese plays a passenger who watches his wife through a window from the street while detailing how he'd like to shoot her.
    • He also appears in the slow-motion introduction shot of Betsy in the background, sitting on a stoop. Whether or not this is the same character is unclear, but they are dressed differently and have a different hairstyle.
      • They're dressed differently. He keeps the same hair and beard in the scene.
  • Creepy Monotone: Travis.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Surprisingly averted. We learn almost nothing of Travis' past and, based on the anniversary card, he keeps in contact with his parents and cares enough about their opinion to lie to them about his life. It makes the film more interesting as you really wonder what happened to Travis to make him the way he is.
  • Deconstruction: Of the Vigilante Man. Technically, on his first and only outing as a vigilante, he may or may not have died. This is what happens when an ordinary man takes up arms and goes against common thugs. And a physically fit ordinary man who supposedly had military training at that.
  • Discretion Shot: Travis's awkward phone call to Betsy, where the camera pans away from him to look down an empty hallway as though feeling his embarrassment, is an unusual example.
  • Don't Tell Mama: Travis lies to his parents about what is really going on with him to reassure them.
  • The Dulcinea Effect: Bickle is a weird Sociopathic Hero version. Taking pity on a random prostitute who was in his cab for a little over 30 seconds.
  • Dying Dream: A common theory about the ending, since Travis is let off for brutally murdering multiple people in front of a 12-year old girl, reunites said 12-year-old girl with her parents, gets his brief girlfriend back, and keeps his job with the cab company. Word of God says no, however.
  • Embarrassing First Name: Iris hates her first name and prefers to be called "Easy." Travis insists upon calling her by her proper name.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: In the third act, Travis writes a letter to his parents, ensuring them he's fine, that he's dating a nice girl, and he loves them.
  • Finger Gun: After his rampage, Travis tries to shoot himself, but he's out of ammunition. When the police arrives, he places his index finger against his temple like a gun and pretends to shoot himself in the head several times.
  • Firing One-Handed: Travis Bickle would die before holding a gun in both hands.
  • Four Is Death: Travis buys four guns from Easy Andy.
  • Gainax Ending
  • Guns Akimbo: Parodied in one shot where Travis draws his .44 Magnum in his right hand and his snubnose revolver in his right. The barrel of the former is longer than the entirety of the latter.
  • Harpo Does Something Funny: Famously, the "You talkin' to me?" scene was only scripted as Travis looking at himself in the mirror and perhaps talking to himself.
  • Hero Complex: Travis has a major case of this.
  • Hollywood Personality Disorders: this movie is often used to show the schizotypal one.
  • Iconic Item: Travis' army jacket and of course the 44 Magnum.
  • I Know Karate: When Travis shows up to berate Betsy for not talking to him after the Porno incident, Tom tries to escort him out of the building. It goes well until he tried to shove him out the door. Travis gets into a stance and snarls at Tom to take his hands off of him. Funnily enough, just doing that causes Tom to back off briefly.
  • Important Haircut: Bickle's mohawk, received just before his rampage.
  • In Memoriam: The end credits finish with one of these to Bernard Herrmann, who died just days after completing the score.
  • Job Title
  • Karma Houdini: Travis at the end. It actually depends on your point of view if he really had to die or survive.
  • Kick the Dog: A store clerk fed up of being robbed viciously beats with a crowbar a thief after Travis has killed him.
  • Loony Fan: The very loony John Hinckley Jr.
  • Loners Are Freaks
  • Moral Dissonance: Thanks for shooting up that den of prostitutes, you heroic rogue.
    • Of course that's assuming that the Hero worship actually happened.
      • Word of God says it did. Screenwriter Schrader said on DVD commentary that the fact that Bickle was worshiped as a hero was meant to be ironic, and that he would not be a hero when he snapped again (the cymbal crash and the look in his eyes in the rearview mirror at the end implied that he was as unstable as ever.).
  • Murder-Suicide: Travis was planning that, but he didn't have any bullets left.
  • New York City
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Travis, while mostly an Avatar for Paul Schrader, has more than a few similarities with Arthur Bremer who shot and paralyzed Governor George Wallace three years earlier.
  • No One Could Survive That: Subverted at the film's climax. Travis shoots Iris's pimp once in the stomach, and assumes that he's dead (as do, in all likelihood, the audience). Minutes later, the pimp reappears behind Travis and shoots him, failing to kill Travis but wounding him quite badly.
  • No Party Given: Senator Palantine, although his comments suggest that he is a Democrat.
  • No Social Skills: Everyone Travis interacts with seems to sense that there's something off about him.
  • Nothing Up My Sleeve: One of Travis's guns is hidden up his sleeve, and drawn using a speed-rig he made himself.
  • One-Scene Wonder: Martin Scorsese's cameo as a psychotic passenger that Travis picks up.
  • Pet the Dog: Travis's love for his parents and concern for Iris.
  • Platonic Prostitution: Travis does this to convince Iris to give it up. She is resistant to the idea.
  • Pretty Little Headshots: Averted in the final shootout.
  • Quick Nip: Travis takes one right around when he purchases his guns.
    • Another shows up right before the first, failed manifestation of his rampage.
  • Shallow Love Interest: Betsy.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Travis, possibly.1
  • Shout-Out: Travis Bickle is named after Mick Travis, Malcolm McDowell's character in Lindsay Anderson's films If.... and O Lucky Man (and later Britannia Hospital). Also, in one scene in O Lucky Man, McDowell wears suspenders with no shirt, as DeNiro does in one scene here.
    • During her coffee-shop date with Travis, Betsy quotes from Kris Kristofferson's song "The Pilgrim, Chapter 33", and Travis later buys her the album on which it appears (The Silver Toungued Devil and I).
    • Movie billboards are seen for The Eiger Sanction, Dr. No, and possibly The Wind and The Lion (The billboard advertised Sean Connery).
    • Looking closely at one of the newspaper clippings at end of the film mentions Harry Kilmer as President of the Manhattan Cab Company. Harry Kilmer was the name of Robert Mitchum's private detective character in The Yakuza, which was writer Paul Schrader's first screenplay.
    • While it would be dumb to suggest that the .44 Magnum's inclusion is in itself a reference to Dirty Harry, the reason the gun is so popular and thus is included in the film is due to that movie.
  • Slasher Smile: Travis during the attempted assassination of Palantine.
  • Sociopathic Hero: Travis Bickle is a nice, quiet variant.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Rough city, smooth jazz.
  • Suicide by Cop: Travis seemingly attempts this at the film's climax. When the cops burst in, he puts his hands in his pocket and appears to be about to withdraw a gun. The cops aren't trigger happy enough for this to work however, and Travis instead pulls out an imaginary gun and pretends to shoot himself in the head.
  • The Taxi
  • This Is Sparta: "They... can not... touch...... her..."
  • Tranquil Fury: A lot of repressed passion beneath that quiet, cold surface.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behaviour: Jodie Foster as a 12-year-old underage prostitute.
  • Unreliable Narrator: You cannot literally believe a word that Travis says. Or at least, you cannot take it at face value.
  • The Vietnam War: Bickle is a Vietnam vet - or so he claims.
    • His green jacket with "Bickle, T." emblazoned on the back would certainly back up that claim.
    • The PTSD also backs up this claim; many Vietnam war vets came back with major trauma.
    • Travis is also proficient in the use of guns and combat knifes, although that doesn't necessarily make him a war vet.
  • Vigilante Man: Travis.
  • Villain Protagonist: Travis approaches this, despite some of his more heroic actions.
  • You Talkin' to Me?: Trope Namer and Trope Maker.