Boys Don't Cry

Movie review by
Will Fertman, Common Sense Media
Boys Don't Cry Movie Poster Image
Excellent but brutal drama examines life of transsexual man.
  • R
  • 1999
  • 118 minutes

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 7 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

While the film is sympathetic to Brandon, some characters express strong homophobic sentiments.


A graphic murder.


Brutal sexual assault, sex scenes.


Very strong language.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Plenty of substance abuse (pot and alcohol).

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this film contains a lot of potentially upsetting material, and should be reserved for mature teenagers. There is a brutal sexual assault, a graphic murder, and a depiction of an emotionally abusive family. There are several non-violent sex scenes as well, involving the main character, a female-to-male transsexual. And there is plenty of substance abuse (pot and alcohol), petty crime (theft, car chases, forgery, etc.) and strong language, as well as an intense discussion of self-cutting. While the film is sympathetic to Brandon, some characters express strong homophobia sentiments which may be especially disturbing to gay, lesbian or transgendered teens.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byBestPicture1996 January 8, 2015

True life tale rocks you to the core

I should've realized coming in but I did not expect this movie to hit me as hard as it did. Perhaps it is a testament to the fine acting featured in this m... Continue reading
Adult Written bywonder dove November 25, 2013

Rollercoaster of emotions...

This film was truly great with an amazing message about acceptance and staying true to yourself. 90's movies are made so well. It was a disturbing yet powe... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written by1456three8 April 29, 2020

Disturbing, 18+

I was told it was okay to watch, and as a transgender youth I was excited. I did not look into it and was scared by the disturbing scenes and traumatic experie... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byCommonR April 19, 2020

Great movie

This movie is sad and violent but it is really meaningful and it has amazing messages but beware their is many graphic sex scenes and colony scenes

What's the story?

BOYS DON'T CRY is a moving but brutal drama based on the life and death of a young transsexual man, Brandon Teena (Hilary Swank). Biologically female (his given name is Teena Brandon) the almost 21-year old is in trouble. He's got a court date coming up (for stealing a car), and his only friend Brian is sick of his mooching. But Brandon's mind is elsewhere -- he's very successful with the girls in Lincoln, Nebraska. He's not forthcoming to them about his biological gender, and it's clear he likes this risk taking. After getting kicked out of Brian's trailer, Brandon gets involved in a bar fight defending the honor of Candace. He quickly falls in with her crowd, impressed by Eric, the violent and charming leader of the group, and Eric's disaffected "daughter", Lana (Chloe Sevigny). Brandon decides to crash with Candace, basking in the acceptance of his new friends and trying to win Lana over. At first, things are going great, but as Brandon and Lana get closer, his capacity to keep his secret beings to unravel. And when Eric begins to suspect that something is wrong, events spin horrifically out of control.

Is it any good?

Director Kimberly Peirce has made a very good film, neither a bland elegy or a sordid true-crime drama. Brandon comes off as both heroic and troubled, and each supporting character is full-fleshed and sympathetic. Swank's performance is stellar, and earned the actress her first Oscar.

Still, this is mature stuff; we don't recommend this film as a starting point for a discussion about gender or sexuality with your teenager because it's too violent and disturbing. Try lighter fare like The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert or The Incredible True Story of Two Girls in Love.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Brandon's sexual identity issues, how he sees himself, and how the people around him react to discovering his secret. Brandon is constantly lying to the people around him; how are the lies about his past and his family different than the "lie" about his gender? Why does he befriend John and Tom so quickly, when it's clear early on that they're dangerous guys?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

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