1. Travis Bickle ('Taxi Driver,' 1976)
If you had to pinpoint the one true screen ancestor of Nightcrawler's awkward, several-beats-off central character, it would be the ticking timebomb skulking through Martin Scorsese's urban nightmare — the original "God's lonely man." Whether it was something that happened in 'Nam (his history as a veteran is alluded to) or simply the psychic cost of living in "Horror City" New York that pushed Travis Bickle to the edge, he's clearly an antihero who radiates repressed rage and the sense that something has short-circuited in his skull. Robert De Niro radiates an outsider mentality from the get-go, seemingly befuddled by social norms (like, say, not detouring a first date into a porno theater) and the bad, bad things coursing through his brain. "Taxi Driver is about a man racked by dark feelings," Scorsese has said. "It's unfortunate that some people act them out." If Jake Gyllenhaal's character in Nightcrawler finds his calling through lensing dead bodies, then Bickle eventually discovers his reason for living is to cause death, in the form of some sort of avenging angel of Avenue A. The justly famous scene of him acting out his fantasies of violence — "You talkin' to me?" — is scary as hell because we recognize it. You would never call Travis Bickle likeable. You would, however, call him familiar.