'You Talkin' To Me?' Robert De Niro's 'Taxi Driver' Question, Explained

By | September 28, 2020

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Source: IMDB

The meaning of the line "You talkin' to me?," uttered by Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) in the 1976 film Taxi Driver, is closely tied to the themes of the film as a whole. Directed by Martin Scorsese, Taxi Driver tells the story of a loner whose life, much of it spent behind the wheel of a New York City taxi cab, is unsatisfying. Bickle fantasizes about doing something of consequence -- he has the vague notion of "fighting back" -- and even rehearses his big moment. That's where the line comes in -- some imaginary punk starts giving him a hard time, and Bickle starts talking tough like John Wayne or Clint Eastwood. "You talkin' to me?"

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Source: (Netflix).

In 1976, when Scorsese's Taxi Driver was released, New York City was a hotbed of crime and corruption. Travis Bickle, a Vietnam veteran, returns home to a city that repulses him, and applies for a job driving a cab. As he travels the streets at night, he is privy to New York’s underworld. Bickle struggles to make connections with people, living a lonely, isolated life, and becomes obsessed with Betsy (Cybill Shepherd), who is working on Charles Palantine’s campaign for president. When Betsy agrees to go on a date with Travis, but she is repulsed when he takes her to an X-rated film. Travis is genuinely surprised that Betsy didn't like the movie and he is, once again, alone.