Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




In 1976, one of the most violent and controversial films of that decade was released in American movie theaters. The film, Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver, was heralded by some film scholars as a masterpiece.

However, others criticized the film for its graphic presentation of urban violence. This criticism intensified when John Hinckley, Jr. attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan in 1981, apparently motivated by his love for a character in the film, played by Jodie Foster.

The director of Taxi Driver, Martin Scorsese, responded to the criticisms of the violence in his film. He suggested that he was not trying to encourage people to commit violent actions. Instead, he wanted the audience to first applaud the violence, then reject it. He suggested that he wanted the audience to come to the realization that the violent acts committed by the lead character were socially unacceptable.

Using methods of rhetorical analysis derived from the Greek philosopher Aristotle, this paper will examine how Scorsese used the visual presentation of violence in Taxi Driver to make his appeal for non-violence. The study will concentrate on the images of violence in the most controversial scene in the film.

The rhetorical methods developed in the discussion of Aristotle's rhetorical theories will be combined with methods of visual analysis derived from the study of film.

After the application of rhetorical principles to the sample has been conducted, the paper will conclude that Scorsese did present the images of violence in such a way that they encouraged the viewer to reject tne violent actions of the main character.