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Loneliness has followed me my whole life. Everywhere. In bars, in cars, sidewalks, stores, everywhere. There's no escape. I'm God's lonely man... June 8th. My life has taken another turn again. The days can go on with regularity over and over, one day indistinguishable from the next. A long continuous chain. Then suddenly, there is a change.
~ Travis Bickle
You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? Then who the hell else are you talkin' to? You talkin' to me? Well I'm the only one here. Who the f-ck do you think you're talking to?
~ Travis imagining a confrontation which would give him a chance to draw his gun. Plus, one of the most famous lines in cinema history.
Listen you f-ckers, you screwheads! Here's a man who would not take it anymore. A man who would not let... [inhales] Listen you f-ckers, you screwheads. Here's a man who would not take it anymore. A man stood up against the scum, the c-nts, the dogs, the filth, the sh-t, here is someone who STOOD UP.
~ Travis vowing vengeance against his ostracizers.
Travis Bickle is the titular protagonist villain of the 1976 psychological crime film Taxi Driver.
Travis Bickle is a lonely and depressed young man living in Manhattan - he suffers from heavy depression living most of his life alone. 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 but never mentioned in the screenplay 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, a campaign volunteer for New York Senator Charles Palantine. 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", 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". 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 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, a 12-year-old child prostitute, enters Bickle's cab, attempting to escape her pimp, Sport. When Bickle fails to drive away, Sport drags Iris from the cab and throws Bickle a crumpled $20 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 he harasses Sport, leading him into anxiety. Bickle shoots Sport in the gut, then storms into the brothel and shoots the bouncer's left hand off. After the wounded Sport shoots Bickle in the neck, slightly wounding him, Bickle shoots him dead, later the bouncer as he attacks him, 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.
Travis Bickle's plan on assassinating Senator Palatine gave John Hinckley, Jr. the idea of attempting to assassinate President Ronald Reagan. He had watched the movie at least 15 times and become obsessed with Jodie Foster, who played Iris; he deluded himself into believing that killing Reagan would make her fall in love with him, much like how, in the film, Travis deludes himself into believing that assassinating Palantine will win Betsy's heart.
Travis Bickle's depression and many psychological aspects are theorized to have come from his days as a Vietnam war veteran, and possibly having Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Some fans have theorized that the ending in which Iris' father writes him a latter of gratitude, and he gives Betsy a ride is all occurring in his mind as he's still in a coma at the hospital. The film's director, Martin Scorsese, has debunked this theory, clarifying that these events did in fact happen. However according to him, the point of Travis glancing in the rear view mirror at the end of the film is meant to signify that he could still go mad again at any moment, and that in the future, he won't be a "hero" again.
Travis was originally going to be a playable character in a Taxi Driver video game adaptation, however the project was eventually scrapped during development.
Robert De Niro has expressed several times about doing a sequel film in order to continue Travis's story.
Travis Bickle remains a very critically acclaimed character, and one of the most iconic characters in movie history.