Learn English with Taxi Driver

(You’ll find a short vocabulary list at the bottom of this article containing the underlined words. If there are any other words you don’t understand, don’t hesitate to ask).

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Genre: Neo – Noir, Level B2

Hi, and welcome to my latest blog post. Today I will write about Taxi Driver and how you can use the film to learn English. Along this dark journey, you will also get to know a few other things. Jump in and let me drive you there:

  1. The main characters
  2. What is Taxi Driver about?
  3. Learn English with Taxi Driver
  4. Why is Taxi Driver so legendary?

The main characters

There a few characters you need to look out for while watching for this film. Here they are:

  • Travis. He is played by Robert De Niro. Travis is a veteran of the Vietnam War and has sleeping problems so takes nightshifts driving a taxi. He sees all the bad things of New York
  • Iris played by Jodie Foster. She is a 12 year old prostitute, who ran away from home. Travis wants to save her life
  • Betsy played by Cybill Shepherd. She dates Travis for a while, but breaks it off with him, because he takes her to a porno film
  • Sport / Matthew played Harvey Keitel. He is Iris’ pimp. He has her doing drugs and other bad things. Travis hates him and what he stands for, which is exploitation and criminal dealings
Learn English with Taxi driver - Pinterest image

what is taxi driver about?

The film follows a taxi driver called Travis. He was a soldier in the Vietnam War, but was discharged. Travis works nights, because he has insomnia. He falls in love with a woman called Betsy, but she finds him strange and she breaks the relationship off.

As he drives around New York City, Travis sees the problems that the city has for example prostitution and gang violence. One night a young prostitute (Iris) is pulled out of Travis’s taxi by force. Travis doesn’t like this and promises to himself that he will help the young woman. He sees himself as a protector.

After illegally buying guns, he stops a robbery in a shop where an old acquaintance works. He gets away with it, because the shopkeeper said he shot the robbers. Travis wants to kill a presidential candidate, but gets scared after seeing the Secret Service. Instead, he finds the brothel where Iris works and kills the bouncer and Iris’s pimp. He is injured as well. He tells Iris to go back home. After recovering, Iris’s father sends a letter saying Iris is now back at school.

The story ends with Travis driving Betsy one last time for free. After dropping Betsy off, Travis sees something that makes him anxious.

Learn english with taxi driver

This film may be gritty and hard to watch, but it has a lot of things that you can use the film to learn English. There also some things that are not appropriate at all and should therefore not be used. Let’s have a look at some these things:

  • Dialogues. Some of the dialogues use detailed use of language. Here’s an example: ‘Only a jackass would carry that cannon in the streets like that’. Here we have an example of American slang with the ‘jackass’. Additionally, we can see the use of modal verbs ‘would’. Furthermore, ‘cannon’ in this sentence is used to describe a certain gun that Travis wants to use.
  • Improper use of language and slang. Unfortunately, this film has a lot of crude words and phrases used. As mentioned above ‘jackass’ is American slang. However, there are also some words, which are used throughout the film, which I will not repeat here. The idea of this was to show how dirty New York City was in 1970s.
  • Detailed adjectives. This film uses a lot of detailed adjectives to portray a city in disrepair and decaying. Take for ‘gritty’ and ‘dirty’. These adjectives describe the film and its setting uniquely.

Here is the trailer of the film to pull you in further:

And here are some of the best quotes that were used in the film. To help you learn English a bit more, look at them and identify the meanings.

Are you looking for more things to watch, then look at my previous post about the best series to watch.

why is taxi driver so legendary

There are many features of this film that make it legendary. However, I’m going to choose just a few to explain why its one of the best films ever:

  • Robert De Niro. The actor played in many films before this like ‘The Godfather’, but this film was his biggest success. We see him play a man, who is mentally disturbed. His portrayal of Travis leaves you on edge throughout the film. Nevertheless, his character also makes you want to continue.
  • Martin Scorsese. One of the finest directors of all time, Scorsese created a masterpiece. All of the pieces work amazingly together, from Travis’ disturbed character to innocent, yet guilty young girl Iris. There are no parts of the film which don’t work together.
  • Music. Something so simple as the music can help create suspense and drama. The jazz infusion into a dark score makes the watcher scared, but thrilled at the same time.
  • Redemption. This film is about redemption, not only for Travis after his failed attempts with Betsy, but also for the young Iris, who escapes from her pimp Sport. This is a main underlying theme of the film.

If this blog post has made you want to learn English and improve it, then now is the time to buy it:

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Now tell me what you learnt from this legendary film and how it improved your English!

Vocabulary list: Learn English with Taxi Driver

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