Taxi Driver (1976)
Taxi Driver didn’t care about respectability — but got it anyway.
It separates itself from all the 1970s films that merely depict sleaze without being sleazy by taking the side of the second-sleaziest character in the film: Robert De Niro’s Travis Bickle is a dirtbag who takes a clean-cut woman (Cybil Shepherd) to an adult movie on a first-date and practices firing his gun in the mirror.
Though director Martin Scorsese and screenwriter Paul Schrader allow us to keep an observational distance from Bickle for most of the movie, we can’t help but take his side at the end of the movie as he takes on its main sleaze, the monstrous Sport (Harvey Keitel), who is disgustingly exploiting Iris (Jodie Foster, above). Eventually we come to believe it takes a sleaze to beat a sleaze.
So sure, Taxi Driver is a sleazy movie — but it’s also one of the all-time greatest movies.