Taxi Driver

AFI Rank: #47
Year Released: 1976
Director: Martin Scorsese
Actors: Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster, Cybill Shepherd,

Taxi driver is a fascinating movie, coming out in the same year as Star Wars (1976) but showing a far bleaker view of life. Travis is a New York City taxi driver, an ex-marine, who is struggling with insomnia and just wants to get through the day. He takes on driving a taxi in the worst areas of town. He has people throwing bottles at him, being sexual in his back seats, and his view on humanity gets fairly worn down. The movie is chock-full of hard street language. He throws around slurs about African-Americans and women, and he clearly has some negative opinions about both. He first stalks a blonde, and when she gets upset that he takes her to a triple-X movie he's baffled and then hostile. He then focuses on a young hooker.

It was interesting, while watching this I kept thinking of "Network" with its "angry man not wanting to take it any more" theme - and sure enough both came out in the same year and Network swept many of the awards Taxi Driver was up for. This must have been quite a year for angry people. It's fascinating to me that we have Star Wars on one hand, and Taxi Driver on the other.

One of the most classic lines coming out of this film is De Niro staring in the mirror, gearing up with his guns, snarling, "Are you talking to me?"

Certainly the actors did a fantastic job here. You really do feel that you're immersed in New York City, walking the streets, immersed in the harsh characters that can populate the world. I admit it's hard for me to watch some of the overtly racist scenes, with him glaring at African-Americans, with the slurs that are passed. But I also understand that this is a "documentary" of sorts of how things were for some people, and there is some context with how he was abused by those around him. Not that it makes it "right" of course, but it was the way things were for some people.

I also enjoyed that the script was not telegraphed. There were many points that I had no idea at all where the story would go - would he do X or Y? I had to sit and wait and see how it all unfolded.

Not a movie I would watch repeatedly - but definitely a movie I am glad I watched once, to get a sense of that era in history, and to understand more the references that others make to this film.

Note that this movie fails the Bechdel test. While there are two named female characters (and really, only those two) they never interact at all. They are simply there to present "beautiful pure angel female" and "run down whore female in need of rescuing". That's the range of women in Travis's mind.

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AFI Top 100 Film Listing
Male vs Female Actors in the AFI Top 100
The Bechdel Test in the AFI Top 100