Bottom line: Robert De Niro has been in a slew of fantastic films (including "Goodfellas" as Jimmy Conway, pictured here), but no character is quite as iconic as Travis Bickle from "Taxi Driver."
Bickle is a lonely, depressed and delusional 26-year-old taxi driver who fantasizes about "cleansing" the streets of criminals. He's full of hate but thinks he's a white knight in a baggy army jacket. He's determined to rescue the 12-and-a-half year-old prostitute, Iris, which is a noble cause — except he's going to murder several people to do so, and one right in front of her face.
But before that, he was willing to murder a popular political candidate, just so he could get revenge on the girl who scorned him — even though she snubbed him because he took her to an X-rated picture.
Ironically, Bickle's murdering of Iris' pimp and two other gangsters turn him into a hometown hero. Iris is reunited with her parents, while the papers laud Bickle for taking down scumbags.
It's weird to watch "Taxi Driver" today, because we no longer give these characters this kind of ending. We're too afraid of what the real-world consequences might be if we did.