11. Taxi Driver
score by Bernard Herrmann
In Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, Travis Bickle’s yellow cab is heralded with the marshal twomp of snare drums. Then, with a burst of Norse timpani and cascading harp, the dishwater-canary beast emerges from an expressionistic pyre of subway steam as if birthed by the urban hellscape itself. The music then downshifts into a bleak parody of sultry minor key jazz saxophone—the perfect accompaniment to Paul Schrader’s existential voiceover, as delivered by Robert De Niro. And just like that, we’re inside Bickle’s head. The final score from the legendary Bernard Herrmann (see also: the entire rest of this goddamned list) before his death, Taxi Driver represented the uneasy (yet effective!) collision between the woozy, dreamlike grandeur of Old Hollywood and the vérité grit of the 1970s Film Brat generation. It was reverent but still innovative, creating a point/counterpoint system to emphasize the lush, heroic—and incorrect—romanticism behind Travis Bickle’s twisted self-perception. You talkin’ to me? asks the cracked cabbie, and Herrmann’s score alone seems to answers back… Yes!