10 Essential Screenplays Every Aspiring Screenwriter Must Read
6. Taxi Driver (1976) - Paul Schrader
What is arguably American auteur Martin Scorsese's best movie also clings to what is arguably one of the greatest screenplays ever written. Taxi Driver tells the story of Travis Bickle, a disillusioned Vietnam veteran battling mental health issues who takes up work as a New York cabbie, and ventures to "cleanse" the streets of society's ills. The reason this movie makes the list? Aside from being practically exempt from critique, Taxi Driver is about a generally unlikeable character with questionable motives - nobody has written a character of that sort of protagonist better than Paul Schrader does here. In that sense, this is the definite "screenplay as a character study," because it never strays from the rules it sets up for itself from the first page: the way he writes it, Schrader doesn't allow us to truly hate or like Bickle. Instead, he plays him in a constant grey area - one which also happens to match up with Bickle's conflicted personality - and lets us make up our own mind about him. The themes at work here, too, are written in impeccably - the movie never lets on to this, though, and we move through Schrader's world as though it were one long dream. Masterful. You can read Paul Schrader's screenplay for Taxi Driverhere.