Taxi Driver is a 1976 American drama film directed by Martin Scorsese and written by Paul Schrader. The film is set in New York City, soon after the Vietnam War. The film stars Robert De Niro and features Jodie Foster, Harvey Keitel, and Cybill Shepherd. The film was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and won the Palme d'Or at the 1976 Cannes Film Festival. The American Film Institute ranked Taxi Driver as the 52nd greatest American film ever made on their AFI's 100 Years…100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) list.
Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) is a lonely and depressed young man and former Marine living in Manhattan. He becomes a night time taxi driver in order to cope with his chronic insomnia, working 12-hour shifts nearly every night, carrying passengers around all five boroughs of New York City. His restless days, meanwhile, are spent in seedy porn theaters. He keeps a diary (excerpts from which are occasionally narrated via voice-over during the film). Bickle is an honorably discharged Marine, and it is implied that he is a Vietnam veteran; he keeps a charred Viet Cong flag in his squalid apartment and has a large scar on his back.
Bickle develops a romantic attachment to Betsy (Cybill Shepherd), a campaign volunteer for New York Senator Charles Palantine (Leonard Harris). Palantine is running for President on a platform of dramatic social change. After watching her from his taxi through the windows of Palantine's campaign office, Bickle enters the office asking to volunteer as a pretext to talk with Betsy. Bickle convinces her to join him for coffee and pie, and she later agrees to let him take her to a movie. She says he reminds her of a line in Kris Kristofferson's song "The Pilgrim, Chapter 33": "He's a prophet and a pusher, partly truth, partly fiction–a walking contradiction." On their date, Bickle takes her to see Language of Love, a Swedish sex education film. Offended, she leaves the movie theater and takes a taxi home alone. The next day he tries to reconcile with Betsy, phoning her and sending her flowers, to no avail.
Bickle's thoughts begin to turn violent. The only person in whom he vaguely confides his new views and desires is fellow taxi driver "Wizard" (Peter Boyle), who tells Travis that he's seen all kinds in his time driving cabs, and he believes Travis will be fine. Disgusted by the petty street crime (especially prostitution) 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 four guns from an illegal dealer, "Easy Andy" (Steven Prince). He then constructs a sleeve gun to attach on his right arm and practices concealing and drawing his weapons. He develops an interest in Senator Palantine's public appearances. One night, Bickle enters a run-down grocery just moments before a man attempts to rob the store. Bickle shoots the man in the neck. The grocery owner (Victor Argo) encourages Bickle to flee after he expresses worry for shooting the man with an unlicensed gun. As Bickle leaves, the store owner repeatedly clubs the near-dead man with a steel pole.
On another night, Iris (Jodie Foster), a 12-year-old child prostitute, enters Bickle's cab, attempting to escape her pimp, "Sport" (Harvey Keitel). When Bickle fails to drive away, Sport drags Iris from the cab and throws Bickle a crumpled twenty-dollar bill. Bickle later meets Iris in the street and pays her for her time, not to have sex, but to try and persuade her to quit prostitution. They meet again the next day for breakfast, and Bickle becomes obsessed with helping Iris leave Sport and return to her parents' home.
Bickle sends Iris several hundred dollars attached to a letter telling her he will soon be dead. After shaving his head into a Mohawk haircut, he attends a public rally where he attempts to assassinate Senator Palantine. Secret Service agents notice him approaching and Bickle flees. He returns to his apartment, then drives to the East Village, where he and Sport get into a confrontation in which the two insult each other. Bickle shoots Sport in the gut, then storms into the brothel and kills the bouncer. After the wounded Sport shoots Bickle in the neck, slightly wounding him, Bickle shoots him dead, as well as Iris' mafioso customer. Bickle is shot several times. Kneeling on the floor of Iris' room, he attempts several times to fire a bullet into his own head, but all his weapons are out of ammunition, so he resigns himself to resting on a sofa until police arrive. When they do arrive, he places his index finger against his temple like a gun and pretends to shoot himself in the head several times.
While recuperating, Bickle receives a handwritten letter from Iris' parents who thank him for saving their daughter, and the media hail him as a hero. Bickle returns to his job, and encounters Betsy as a fare. She discusses his newly found fame, but he denies being a hero. He drops her off without charging her. As he drives away, he glances anxiously at an object in his taxi's rear view mirror.
Frank Adu ... Angry Black Man
Victor Argo ... Melio (as Vic Argo)
Gino Ardito ... Policeman at Rally
Garth Avery ... Iris' Friend
Peter Boyle ... Wizard
Albert Brooks ... Tom
Diahnne Abbott ... Concession Girl (as Diahnne Abbot)
Harry Cohn ... Cabbie in Bellmore
Copper Cunningham ... Hooker in Cab
Robert De Niro ... Travis Bickle (as Robert DeNiro)
Brenda Dickson ... Soap Opera Woman
Harry Fischler ... Dispatcher
Jodie Foster ... Iris
Nat Grant ... Stick-Up Man
Leonard Harris ... Charles Palantine
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Produced by Julia Phillips
Written by Paul Schrader
Narrated by Robert De Niro