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Written by Paul Schrader, the story was was inspired by the diaries of Arthur Bremmer, who shot presidential candidate George Wallace in 1972. He chose to make Bickle a Vietnam vet because the national trauma of the war seemed to blend perfectly with the characters paranoid psychosis, making his experiences after the war more intense and threatening.
The movie skilfully creates feeling of being in a limbo state somewhere between sleeping and waking, with De Niro's Travis an "avenging angel" floating through the streets. In many ways, the film has become prophetic and mirrors the violence of contemporary news headlines. Notoriously, the film is linked to and may have triggered the political assassination (copy-cat) attempt by inconspicuous John Hinckley on President Ronald Reagan in 1981, illuminating his dangerous fixation on actress Jodie Foster, and resulting in the assassin's infamous media-hero status.