Taxi Driver

Movie review by
David Gurney, Common Sense Media
Taxi Driver Movie Poster Image
'70s classic is extremely violent; lots of sex, language.
  • R
  • 1976
  • 112 minutes
Popular with kidsParents recommend

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 12 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 31 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The main character -- lonely, depressed, and alienated -- starts to slide into a deteriorating mental and emotional state in which he has delusions of grandeur as well as homicidal and suicidal thoughts. The end of the movie is an ironical twist on the consequences of his actions, and despite what society now thinks of him, he shows no real clear signs that he will change. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Travis Bickle has come to embody an iconic antihero, a misfit both alienated and disgusted by the society around him whose exaggerated sense of right and wrong leads him to suicidal despair and to desires to shoot and kill others before taking his own life. 

Violence

Climactic scene is a blood-drenched apartment gun battle -- characters shot in the chest, hand, arm. Suicide by a gun to the head prevented only because the gun no longer has any bullets. Lead character shoots and kills a would-be robber of a liquor store; the clerk then starts to beat the dead body of the assailant with a wooden club. Lead character buys a collection of guns from an illegal arms salesman; when the lead character sees how a gun feels in his hand, he aims it out the window as the camera shows his point of view and the gun pointed at two pedestrians talking on the sidewalk a few stories below.  Assassination of a politician narrowly averted. 

Sex

Lead character frequents the pornographic movie theaters of 1970s Times Square in New York City. The sexual acts of the movies are briefly seen and heard in these scenes. Lead character talks of how he has to clean up the semen from the backseat of his cab at the end of every shift. He befriends a 12-year-old prostitute who tries to perform oral sex on him. The prostitute's pimp says that the lead character can have anal sex with her if he desires. One of the cabbies regales other cabbies in an all-night cafeteria with exaggerated tales of his sexual experiences. Prostitutes constantly shown walking the streets of Times Square and getting picked up. 

Language

Constant profanity. "F--k" and "N" word. Various racial and homophobic slurs. "C--ts," "p---y," "c--k," "bitch," "ass," "hell." Bickle mentions having to clean off semen (he uses a slang term) from the backseat of his taxi at the end of every shift. A pimp tells the lead character of the sexual acts he can perform on a 12-year-old prostitute for the money he spends. A cabbie regales fellow cabbies in an all-night cafeteria with over-the-top tales of his sexual experiences. 

Consumerism

Coca-Cola, Doritos, Budweiser, McDonald's products shown. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Lead character often shown taking pills presumed to be amphetamines. He often keeps a bagged bottle of booze in his pocket and takes sips while walking down the street. Beer drinking. Smoking. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Taxi Driver is a classic 1976 Martin Scorsese film about the mental breakdown of a lonely and alienated young man driving a cab through the vice-laden streets of '70s NYC. It's one of the best films of all time -- iconic and unforgettable -- and a must-see for movie lovers, but unquestionably not for kids. Robert De Niro's performance as the antihero of antiheroes Travis Bickle conveys a slow slide into derangement with a gradual build-up of menace culminating in a blood-filled apartment shoot-out. The sleazy sex of Times Square and the violence of a declining city losing a war on crime weave through the movie with as much omnipresence as the sadly beautiful and dreamlike neon lights and long-gone bars, restaurants, and businesses of '70s New York streets where Bickle picks up and drops off his fares. Bickle frequents pornographic movie houses -- some brief scenes from the movies are shown and heard. He befriends a 12-year-old prostitute (played by Jodie Foster) and attempts to rescue her from her depraved surroundings. Bickle shoots and kills a would-be corner store robber, and after getting hustled out the front door by the grateful store owner, the owner begins to beat the dead man repeatedly with a wooden club. Profanity is constant, including "f--k," "c--t," "p---y," and various racial slurs for African-Americans. To reiterate: This is a great film, but most definitely not for kids. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 10 and 13 year old Written bySuperParent August 29, 2009

A Martin Scorsese Classic

Robert De Niro is Terrific as the Taxi Driver, Martin Scorses Classic! but does involve a 12-year old prostitute and a man taking his girlfriend to a porn theat... Continue reading
Parent of a 3 and 7 year old Written bykelldeal October 12, 2009

good for ages 20 and not for tweens!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

horrible!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Teen, 15 years old Written byCSM Screen Name... April 9, 2008

One of the greatest movies ever made

This movie, which was once a movie that didn't make much sense for its time, is now a shocking reality. Robert Deniro plays one of the greatest roles ever... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written bythesturgmachine February 15, 2014

Shouldn't be R18+

It really isn't that bad, not really violent till the end. It's all fine for 12 but the themes probably plus it to 13. Still, 12 isn't too bad.

What's the story?

TAXI DRIVER centers on Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro), an unhinged young man who has moved to New York following service in the military. In the city, he finds himself disgusted by the crime and "filth" on the streets. Unable to sleep at night, he takes a job as a nighttime taxi driver -- a job that brings him into close contact with many of the city's undesirable elements. Although he tries to connect with the people he meets (including a pretty campaign worker played by Cybill Shepherd and a teen prostitute played by Jodie Foster), his awkwardness keeps him from succeeding. Rapidly, his mental state deteriorates, and he begins to fantasize about cleaning up corruption on his own. Ultimately, he enacts his warped idea of vigilante justice with some rather graphic and surprising consequences.

Is it any good?

Teenagers curious about extremely violent films are likely to learn of this film's reputation, especially the tour-de-force performance of Robert De Niro. Taxi Driver was the first major collaboration between De Niro and director Martin Scorsese. Working from Paul Schrader's script, the resulting film is deeply affecting in its ability to bring the viewer into the frame of mind of a violent and volatile social misfit. Feeding off a general sense of unrest that many young people will experience in life, the film does an amazing job of depicting Bickle as a real human being with problems, rather than a cartoonish villain. In Travis' mind, his morals are well tuned, obligating him to turn crusader for his own version of decency. It's hard to wholly cast him as the "bad guy," and so much moral ambiguity exists.

The imagery of New York City at night almost functions as a second main character, with striking visuals and all sorts of unsavory characters. It's a truly stunning masterpiece that helped to solidify an actor-director relationship that went on to produce many other great films.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about movies in which the lead characters are antiheroes. How does Travis Bickle fit the mold of a cinematic antihero? Who are some other examples of movie and TV show characters who are antiheroes? How might the antihero serve to underscore the problems of a society and even the inherent hypocrisy of those deemed to be the "good guys," who might not be as good as they seem? 

  • How does Bickle seem both a part of and separate from the setting of the movie? How is the setting conveyed in both Scorsese's directing and the characters who inhabit it? 

  • What are your thoughts on the ending? Do you prefer movies to have clear-cut endings, or endings that are more ambiguous? Why? 

Movie details

For kids who love classics

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