Screenwriter Paul Schrader drew on the mythology of 1940s film noir thrillers for this story of Vietnam vet Travis Bickle’s increasingly psychotic disgust at the nocturnal New York street life he observes from his taxi. Brought to vivid life by director Martin Scorsese – then one of Hollywood’s hot-property new filmmakers – the film is one of the 1970s’ most strikingly original works.
Although the film is evocatively rooted in contemporary New York, Scorsese’s camera dwells on strange expressionistic details – such as the sulphurous, steaming sidewalk and abstract neon signs – that contribute to the film’s hallucinatory, nightmarish quality. Centred around a brilliant performance by Robert De Niro, the grim intensity of Bickle’s avenging mania is framed by Bernard Herrmann’s forceful and occasionally nostalgic score.
“Political conspiracy, violence and queasy comedy – as fresh as it ever was.” Roger Luckhurst
“Following this cracked taxi driver through his nocturnal wanderings, we also follow his dark thoughts. In the maze of the city swarm so many lost and lonely souls exactly like our paranoiac protagonist – struggling for a kind of justice and running madly for an unreachable inner peace.” Mustapha Benfodil
“The modern template for post-war disillusionment and the brittle masculinities it produces. Setting the film in New York was a masterstroke: watching Bickle struggle to reintegrate into a city that seems in moral, spiritual freefall itself only makes his own predicaments all the sadder.” Kevin Wynter
“A vivid love/hate letter to the history of American film.” Marten Blomkvist