Robert De Niro fans can rejoice, as the streaming behemoth, Netflix, is bringing back one of the veteran Hollywood actor’s most controversial films ever. Starting January 1st, Netflix will welcome back the 1976 film Taxi Driver to its list of streamable films. Starring Robert De Niro, a young Jodie Foster, Cybill Shepherd, and Peter Boyle, the iconic film may be only one in De Niro’s lucrative and long list of films, but it’s heavily considered to be one of his most critical roles.
Taxi Driver marked Robert De Niro’s second collaboration with renowned director Martin Scorsese. The unsettling masterpiece boosted both of their careers to new levels and serves as one of the most critical film pieces of its decade. Set in a collapsing New York City burdened from bankruptcy following the Vietnam War, the film follows a young De Niro as Travis Bickle, a taxi driver and veteran who is suffering from PTSD and unraveling before viewers eyes as he works nights in the city.
De Niro’s flawless acting skills were front and center throughout the film. The iconic scenes showcasing Travis Bickle’s existential crisis as he talked to himself in the mirror are considered by many cinephiles as the best display of acting ever filmed. To help prep for his big role, the young De Niro was even known to go to extreme lengths to bring his character to life. Other than losing a striking 35 pounds to get in character, De Niro obtained a taxi driver’s license for himself, and he would often spend his lunch breaks driving a taxi around the Big Apple.
While Taxi Driver is widely credited solely to Martin Scorsese as the mastermind behind the Robert De Niro film, it was actually the joining of an already up and coming filmmaker, and the creative mind of the film’s writer, Paul Schrader, that bolstered the film to what it is today. Schrader and Scorsese drew on the feeling that movies are like dreams, and they set out to animate the idea into a film that would give viewers feelings of being in limbo. Scorsese once even cited Alfred Hitchcock’s The Wrong Man as an inspiration. On an extremely low budget of only $1.9 million, the actors of the film were said to have taken pay cuts in order to keep the project going. It was reported that Robert De Niro and Cybill Shepherd each received only $35,000, while Scorsese was given $65,000.
Debuting at the Coronet Theater in New York City, Taxi Driver grossed a house record of $68,000 in its first week. To further its success, the film soon coming to Netflix went on to gross over $28.3 million in The United States alone at the time of its original release. It fast became the 17th highest-grossing film of 1976. Robert De Niro and the entire crew’s success was fast and unstoppable. Receiving plenty of critical acclaims and awards, Roger Ebert instantly praised the film as one of the greatest he had ever seen. The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes boasts an approval rating of 96% based on over 94 reviews with an average rating of 9.1/10. In 2007, Taxi Driver received a ranking among the American Film Institute’s great films of all time, when it received 52nd place. Empire has also praised Robert De Niro’s role in the film when they ranked him 18th in their 100 greatest movie characters poll.
As possibly the most pivotal role in Robert De Niro’s long and lucrative career, Taxi Driver put the up-and-coming De Niro into a leading man status and paved the way for the actor to star in the upcoming Scorsese films like Raging Bull, GoodFellas, and Casino. Nearly four decades later, De Niro has starred in over 145 films and has plenty of accolades to show for his work. An eight-time Academy Award nominee, De Niro won two Oscars for playing Vito Corleone in The Godfather Part II (1974) and Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull (1980). He is also a six-time BAFTA Award nominee and an eight-time Golden Globe Award nominee. In 2009, he was among the five recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors, presented by 44th President of the United States Barack Obama. While the actor who made the four simple words “You talking to me?” so popular may not be slowing down anytime soon, a look back at where the prestigious celebrity came from is crucial for understanding Robert De Niro’s fame. If you haven’t seen Taxi Driver yet, the must-see is available to stream on Netflix starting January 1st.