Played by Robert De Niro
The film's protagonist. Travis served in Vietnam as a Marine until 1973, and two years later, he is a taxi driver in New York City. Originally, he comes from an unspecified rural area. Travis is not fully sane when the movie begins, and as the film progresses, his sanity deteriorates. His failed attempt to form a relationship with Betsy pushes him further into insanity, and eventually he succumbs to obsession, fanaticism, and violence.
Played by Jodie Foster
A twelve-and-a-half-year-old prostitute. Iris ran away from her home in Pittsburgh to live in New York, where she does drugs and turns tricks in the custody of her pimp, Sport. She is in love with Sport, and he succeeds in talking her out of leaving him. Travis eventually saves Iris from her corrupt life when he kills the men around her.
Read an in-depth analysis of Iris.
Played by Cybill Shepherd
Travis's ideal woman, blonde and beautiful. Betsy works with the Palantine presidential campaign. Initially she finds going out with Travis to be a fascinating experiment, but she cuts off all contact after he takes her on a date to a porn film.
Played by Harvey Keitel
Iris's pimp. Travis believes Sport to be the worst person in the world, but Sport's relationship with Iris is more complicated and ambiguous than Travis thinks. Sport plays the role of father, lover, and pimp for Iris.
The Unnamed Passenger
Played by Martin Scorsese
A passenger of Travis's who has perverse ideas about killing his wife. Travis picks the passenger up one evening soon after Betsy rejects him. The passenger directs Travis's attention to the silhouette of a woman in a window. He says the woman is his wife and that she is sleeping with a black man in the apartment. He says he will kill her, describing his plans in gruesome and suggestive detail.
Played by Albert Brooks
One of Betsy's coworkers on the Palantine campaign. Tom, like Travis, is in love with Betsy, but while Travis is too much of an outsider for Betsy, Tom is too square. His jokes mostly fall flat, and he is cowardly in his attempts to protect Betsy from Travis.
Played by Leonard Harris
A senator who is campaigning for President, and whom Travis later tries, and fails, to assassinate. Palantine is a liberal trying to capitalize on the anti-Vietnam youth culture to win the Democratic nomination. His politician's nature comes through when he talks to Travis in his cab, making sure to call him by his name and to shake his hand afterward, even though Travis has unsettled him by swearing and talking like a madman. Palantine may or may not also be the man who gets into the cab early on in the movie with a prostitute, telling Travis to hurry up while pretending he isn't there, a marked contrast to his calm, diplomatic attitude later on.
Played by Peter Boyle
An experienced cabby Travis sometimes hangs out with on his break. Travis reaches out to Wizard before he buys his guns, hoping Wizard will have some words of encouragement that will stop his violent plans. All Wizard can say is that once a man has a job, like driving a taxi, he becomes that job. Travis doesn't take him seriously. Wizard's words turn out to be prophetic, as Travis fails to kill himself and so remains a taxi driver indefinitely.
Played by Norman Matlock
A black cab driver who is friendly with Wizard and Doughboy. Charlie T's presence makes Travis uncomfortable, but we know that Travis does have some interaction with him because he borrowed five dollars from him at some point.
Played by Harry Northup
One of the taxi drivers Travis sometimes hangs out with at an all-night diner. Doughboy is the first to suggest that Travis should carry a gun, and for a fee he sets him up with Easy Andy, the underground gun dealer.
Played by Steven Prince
The traveling salesman who sells Travis four guns. Easy Andy offers Travis everything from drugs to cars once Travis makes a purchase. When Travis finally meets Iris, she tells him her name is Easy, unknowingly echoing Easy Andy's name.
Played by Diahnne Abbott
A young black woman with whom Travis tries to make contact before he sees Betsy. This woman works at a porn theater that Travis visits one morning and is not moved enough even to tell Travis her name. However racist Travis may seem, he is threatened only by black men—he doesn't hesitate about approaching this young black woman.