Martin Scorsese has made a lot of great movies, but Taxi Driver could still make a claim for being his best movie. It’s certainly his definitive work: New York is a character in the movie, it has a beautiful jazzy score, it explores a seedy criminal underworld, it’s unapologetically graphic, it represents its place in history with a cynical view of the Vietnam War, and it stars Robert De Niro as a deeply flawed and violent leading character. If it’s not the greatest Scorsese movie, it’s the one that most represents his strengths as a director. Here are the 10 Most Memorable Quotes From Taxi Driver.
10 “Anytime, anywhere.”
The personnel officer who hires Travis to be a cabbie in the first place in the movie’s opening scene asks him, “Wanna work uptown at nights? South Bronx? Harlem?” and Travis simply tells him, “I’ll work anytime, anywhere.” Then the personnel officer asks him, “Will you work on Jewish holidays?” and Travis repeats himself: “Anytime, anywhere.” This is a guy who doesn’t expect very much from society. He doesn’t think any area of New York is beneath him. He’ll drive anywhere and he’ll do it day or night. This also establishes that Travis has terrible insomnia, because he’s up for driving all day and night.
9 “Man, she’s twelve and a half years old. You never had no p***y like that.”
What finally breaks Travis and makes him want to take action and clean up the streets of his city himself is finding out there’s a twelve-year-old prostitute in the mix. And Harvey Keitel plays the scumbag pimp character, Sport, perfectly, leaning into his sickening nature: “Well, take it or leave it. If you want to save yourself some money, don’t f**k her. ‘Cause you’ll be back here every night for some more. Man, she’s twelve and a half years old. You never had no p***y like that. You can do anything you want with her.” It gets worse, but we’ll stop there.
8 “You’re in a hell, and you’re gonna die in a hell, just like the rest of ‘em!”
Travis Bickle is an extreme version of those “Nice guys finish last” people. They think the girls they like don’t want to date them because they can’t see how great they are – but are they really that great? Travis takes Betsy to see a porno movie and then gets angry at her when that creeps her out.
He tells her, “Let me tell you something. You’re in a hell, and you’re gonna die in a hell, just like the rest of ‘em!” In his voiceover narration, he rationalizes his actions to make the fact she’s rejecting him her fault: “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."
7 “I have a .44 Magnum pistol. I’m gonna kill her with that gun.”
Martin Scorsese will occasionally put himself in his movies. He subbed in for Harvey Keitel in Charlie’s voiceover in Mean Streets. But perhaps his most famous role is that of the deranged man who sits in Travis’ cab and catches his wife with another man. He starts telling him about how he’s going to exact his revenge against her: “I have a .44 Magnum pistol. I’m gonna kill her with that gun. Did you ever see what a .44 Magnum pistol can do to a woman’s face? I mean, it’ll f**king destroy it. Just blow her right apart.” Travis gets some wacky passengers.
6 “I have to clean the cum off the back seat. Some nights, I clean off the blood.”
This quote is pretty gross, but that’s exactly what it’s supposed to be. Not only does it point out how terrible Travis’ life is, since it’s his job to clean disgusting fluids out of his car at an absurd time like four o’clock in the morning; it also implies some pretty gnarly things he sees during his day-to-day. His voiceover reveals, “Each night, when I return the cab to the garage, I have to clean the cum off the back seat. Some nights, I clean off the blood.” He’s just a cab driver – there’s only about three feet separating him from his passengers. And yet, somehow, semen and blood end up on the seats. Our imaginations run wild.
5 “Here is a man who would not take it anymore.”
Travis Bickle may be the single most mentally disturbed individual ever portrayed on film, but he sees himself as a hero of his time. He’s just like everybody else, except he decided to take action, and then makes him the man of his moment. He presents himself and his manifesto to us, referring to himself in the third person, in an inspirational speech: “Listen, you f**kers, you screwheads. Here is a man who would not take it anymore. A man who stood up against the scum, the c**ts, the dogs, the filth, the s**t. Here is a man who stood up.”
4 “I’m God’s lonely man.”
Travis Bickle’s defining trait is his loneliness. He feels cast out by society and isolated from everyone. After he left Vietnam and returned to New York, he didn’t feel like he could fit in. He explained, “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.”
But maybe that loneliness is self-imposed. Travis represents all the veterans who have returned from war with PTSD and been rejected by society. However, he seems more comfortable as an outcast than when he involves himself in social situations. Maybe he’s better off being “God’s lonely man.”
3 “See ya later, copper!”
This quote by Harvey Keitel’s pimp character, Sport, doesn’t seem like very much, but it speaks volumes about the problems Travis sees in America. This guy is a pimp, selling preteen girls’ bodies on the street, and when he says to Travis, “See ya later, copper!” and Travis replies, “I’m no cop, man,” and Sport tells him, “Well, if you are, then it’s entrapment already,” it points out a flaw in the system. Sport has read his rights and found all the loopholes. He knows how to keep doing what he does and not get sent to jail. That’s why Travis feels the need to take matters into his own hands.
2 “You talkin’ to me?”
This is the line everyone remembers. Even if they’ve never seen the movie, they know there’s a movie out there in which Robert De Niro utters this line. But it’s the context that makes it so powerful. He’s so isolated that he’s talking to himself in the mirror, responding to something that’s not actually being said, practicing how he’s going to threaten people on the street: “You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? Well, then who the hell else are you talking – You talking to me? Well, I’m the only one here. Who the f**k do you think you’re talking to?”
1 “Someday, a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets.”
This whole monologue is perfect, because it sums up Travis’ cynical view of the world and the mental downfall that drives him to take matters into his own hands: “Thank God for the rain, which has helped wash away the garbage and trash off the sidewalks. I’m working 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*****s, buggers, queens, fairies, dopers, junkies, sick, venal. Someday, a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets.”