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Villain Overview

You talking to me? You talking to me? You talking to me? Then who the hell else are you talking to? You talking to me? Well, I'm the only one here. Who the fuck do you think you're talking to?
~ Travis talking to himself, as well as his most famous quote, and one of the most famous quotes in film history
Listen you fuckers, you screwheads! Here's a man who would not take it anymore. Who would not let... [inhales] Listen you fuckers, you screwheads. Here is a man who would not take it anymore. A man stood up against the scum, the cunts, the dogs, the filth, the shit, here is someone who stood up.
~ Travis vowing vengeance against his ostracizers
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 on his loneliness in a journal entry

Travis Bickle is the titular protagonist of the 1976 psychological crime thriller film Taxi Driver.

He is a mentally ill and emotionally distant taxi driver and Vietnam War veteran suffering from PTSD, who, after having enough with the crime and "filth" on the streets of New York City, decides to become a vigilante. As Travis goes more and more insane, he loses a potential girlfriend, attempts to rescue a child prostitute and plans to assassinate a politician.

While being the subject of various controversies, Travis Bickle has been cited to be one of the most influencing anti-heroes in all of cinema. Not to mention, the portrayal of Travis had both won and was nominated for various awards.

He was portrayed by Robert De Niro, who also played Johnny Civello in Mean Streets, Vito Corleone in The Godfather Part II, Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull, Rupert Pupkin in The King of Comedy, Louis Cyphre in Angel Heart, Al Capone in The Untouchables, Jimmy Conway in Goodfellas, Max Cady in Cape Fear, Frankenstein's Monster in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Neil McCauley in Heat, Dwight Hansen in This Boy's Life, Ace Rothstein in Casino, Louis Gara in Jackie Brown, Gil Renard in The Fan, Fearless Leader in The Adventures of Rocky and Buillwinkle, Don Lino in Shark Tale, David Callaway in Hide and Seek, Senator John McLaughlin in Machete, Frank Sheeran in The Irishman and William Hale in Killers of the Flower Moon.

Personality[]

"He's a prophet and a pusher, partly truth, partly fiction. A walking contradiction."
~ Betsy describing Travis through a poem.

On the surface, Travis seems to be a quiet, loner-type man, who desires to become a vigilante due to his hate of the "scum" on the streets, mostly prostitutes and crime. Throughout Travis' transformation from taxi driver to freedom fighter, he is seen various times struggling to interact with people, even including his best friends, showing off his various antisocial and introverted tendencies. But one of the most important traits of Travis, is his constant feelings of being distant from the people around him, with Travis believing that he is the only one in the city who notices the problems with society.

However, despite feeling extremely distinct from the people around him, Travis also wishes to fit in with society, doing things that he doesn't wish to do, but only does due to his wishes to fit in, with a good example being when he brings Betsy to a porno theater, even though he, himself doesn't like going to porno theaters. Although, the most contradictory trait of Travis, is his various violent thoughts. Even though Travis wants to be looked at as a brave crime fighter, he mostly does the things he does, due to his lust for violence and his extremely cynical perspective of the world. Altogether, Travis is an extremely complex man, who feels as though he is the only one who can fix the problems with society.

Biography[]

Past[]

Travis Bickle was born in 1950 to an unnamed mother and father, presumably in New York City. Not much else is known about Travis' past, however, during his conversation with the personnel officer, some things are revealed about Travis' past. When asked about his education, Travis replies, "here and there", implying that he either dropped out of school, or did extremely poorly. However, the most important thing revealed about Travis' past, is when he reveals that he was in the Marine Corps. during the Vietnam War, as well as given an honorable discharge due to an injury in May of 1973. Due to his time in the war, Travis soon started suffering from PTSD, which explains his actions through the rest of the film.

Taxi Driver[]

Travis Bickle is now living as 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.

Travis-diary

Travis writing in his diary.

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 battered $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.

Travis Bickle

Travis' transformation.

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.

Skills and Abilities[]

As a Vietnam War veteran, Travis is shown to be a highly skilled gunman and marksman when it comes to dealing with weaponry. While Travis' mental state was negatively affected by his time serving as a marine, his physical strength became highly improved, with it also being improved after turning his life around by going on a diet and exercising constantly. However, while Travis has the capability of easily manipulating people, such as when he influences Betsy into dating him and when he tells Iris to quit being a child prostitute, Travis is shown to not be extremely smart or confident, despite his knowledge of the crime surrounding him. Near the middle of the film, Travis acquires various guns including:

Victims[]

Quotes[]

It's clean, real clean. Like my conscience.
~ Travis to the Personnel Officer.
You're only as healthy as you feel.
~ Travis' philosophy.
Each night when I return the cab to the garage, I have to clean the c-m off the back seat. Some nights, I clean off the blood.
~ Travis on his job.
May 10th. Thank God for the rain which has helped wash away the garbage and trash off the sidewalks. I'm workin' long hours now, six in the afternoon to six in the morning. Sometimes even eight in the morning, six days a week. Sometimes seven days a week. It's a long hustle but it keeps me real busy. I can take in three, three fifty a week. Sometimes even more when I do it off the meter. All the animals come out at night - whores, skunk p-ssies, buggers, queens, fairies, dopers, junkies, sick, venal. Someday a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets. I go all over. I take people to the Bronx, Brooklyn, I take 'em to Harlem. I don't care. Don't make no difference to me. It does to some. Some won't even take spooks. Don't make no difference to me.
~ Travis' entry on how he feels about the "scum" on the streets.
I first saw her at Palantine Campaign headquarters at 63rd and Broadway. She was wearing a white dress. She appeared like an angel. Out of this filthy mess, she is alone. They... cannot... touch... her.
~ Travis' journal entry on Betsy.
I'll tell you why. I think you're a lonely person. I drive by this place a lot and I see you here. I see a lot of people around you. And I see all these phones and all this stuff on your desk. It means nothing. Then when I came inside and I met you, I saw in your eyes and I saw the way you carried yourself that you're not a happy person. And I think you need something. And if you want to call it a friend, you can call it a friend.
~ Travis to Betsy.
This city here is like an open sewer, you know, it's full of filth and scum. Sometimes I can hardly take it. Whatever ever becomes the President should just - really clean it up, know what I mean? Sometimes I go out and I smell it. I get headaches, it's so bad, you know. It's like - they just never go away, you know. It's like I think that the President should clean up this whole mess here. He should flush it down the f-ckin' toilet.
~ Travis to Senator Palantine, on his problems with New York City.
I realize now how much she's just like the others, cold and distant, and many people are like that, women for sure, they're like a union.
~ Travis on Betsy after she dumps him, one of Travis' most contradictory quotes.
I don't know. That's about the dumbest thing I ever heard.
~ Travis to Wizard, after he gives Travis advice.
The days go on and on... they don't end. All my life needed was a sense of someplace to go. I don't believe that one should devote his life to morbid self-attention, I believe that one should become a person like other people.
~ One of Travis' entiries on his life.
June 29th. I gotta get in shape. Too much sitting has ruined my body. Too much abuse has gone on for too long. From now on there will be 50 pushups each morning, 50 pullups. There will be no more pills, no more bad food, no more destroyers of my body. From now on will be total organization. Every muscle must be tight.
~ Travis preparing.
The idea had been growing in my brain for some time: TRUE force. All the king's men cannot put it back together again.
~ One of Travis' narrations.
Now I see this clearly. My whole life is pointed in one direction. There never has been a choice for me.
~ Travis on how he must assassinate Palantine.
Hey, I'm not square, you're the one that's square. You're full of sh-t, man. What are you talking about? You walk out with those f-ckin' creeps and low-lifes and degenerates out on the streets and you sell your little p-ssy for peanuts? For some low-life pimp who stands in the hall? And I'm square? You're the one that's square, man. I don't go screwing f-ck with a bunch of killers and junkies like you do. You call that bein' hip? What world are you from?
~ Travis trying to convince Iris to leave her life as a prostitute.
So long.
~ Travis' last lines to Betsy, just before he drives away.

Trivia[]

  • Travis Bickle is ranked #30 on AFI's list "100 Years...100 Heroes and Villains".
  • Travis is loosely based upon Arthur Bremer, who in 1972 attempted to assassinate Alabama Governor George Wallace.
  • Travis Bickle's plan on assassinating Senator Palatine inadvertently 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 him over 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 letter 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 hailed as 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.

External Links[]

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Sport's Gang (Sport | Anthony Sciloso) | Unnamed Passenger | Travis Bickle | Easy Andy | The Robber

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