Boys Don't Cry Movie Poster Image

Boys Don't Cry

Excellent but brutal drama examines life of transsexual man.
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1999
  • Running Time: 118 minutes

What parents need to know

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.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Plenty of substance abuse (pot and alcohol).

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.

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.

Families can talk 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

Theatrical release date:July 11, 1999
DVD/Streaming release date:July 1, 2004
Cast:Chloe Sevigny, Hilary Swank, Peter Sarsgaard
Director:Kimberly Peirce
Studio:Twentieth Century Fox
Run time:118 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:violence including an intense brutal rape scene, sexuality, language and drug use

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Teen, 15 years old Written byTheSuperman765 April 14, 2011

imprssive film is not for kids

What to watch out for * Messages: While the film is sympathetic to Brandon, some characters express strong homophobic sentiments. * Violence: A graphic murder. * Sex: Brutal sexual assault, sex scenes. * Language: Very strong language. * Consumerism: Not an issue. * Drinking, drugs, & smoking: Plenty of substance abuse (pot and alcohol).
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
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 movie, most prominently that of Hilary Swank, who embodies trans man Brandon Teena with a passion for love and a desire to be accepted. True life dramas are always the hardest to shake off after the credits roll. The story of Brandon will stick with me forever, as will this movie, a tragic romance about two people who accept and love each other regardless of their differences. There's horrible but necessary scenes of rape to convey the horror of the situation, but there's also unnecessary graphic sex scenes director Kimberly Peirce could have left out. Regardless, it's a very well done movie, but it is solely for adults.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Adult Written bydavyborn April 21, 2013

One powerful, brutal film. Most definitely not for the faint of heart.

Kimberly Pierce's (Stop-Loss, the upcoming "Carrie" remake) absolutely, astonishingly riveting and life-affecting first film, Boys Don't Cry, debuted in late 1999, when the 1993 murder of real life transexual Nebraska teenager, Brandon Teena, was still fresh in the American conciousness. Now, the film is nearly fourteen years old, and it still remains one of the most heartwrenching, brutal, cold, and, ultmately, powerful and uplifting drama's to ever proudly brace the indie scene. Hilary Swank stars as Brandon Teena, a young woman living in rural Nebraska who is experiencing what you would call, a sexual identity crisis. She doesn't even think of herself as a transexual. She just likes to dress, act and live her life as a male. After a particularly ugy early scene with some locals and an argument with her cousin, she ends up in Falls City, Nebraska. There, she makes friends with several people, most of them linked to one family, including John Lotter (Peter Sarsgaard), Tom Nissen (Brendan Sexton III), Candace (Alicia Goranson) and Lana Tisdel (Chloë Sevigny). Now, at first, things are great in Brandon's new life. She hangs out constantly and particularly with John, Tom and Lana. But, as she discovers just how dangerous it is to be involved wth John and his group of friends, she also discovers the dangers of falling in love with Lana, who is close wth John. Now, Hilary Swank conveys a perfrmance that will knock you down to the ground, warp your brain around about what people think about the nature of a transexual person, and it will leave you shaking and reveling. But, at the same time, it is nothing less than absolutely, nerve-shatteringly brutal about what ends up happening to Brandon, after the family finds out about her identity, and John and Tom end up brutally and horrifically raping her in a scene that will be too much for virtually any viewer to take. But, it is also in the power of Chloe Sevigny, who also deserves much praise for her performance as Lana, who, as the film progresses, acts as a sort of fall-back person for Brandon to lean on, in the end giving her enough strength to carry on, even if, tragically, it wouldn't be for much longer. Now, Kimberly Pierce should be grandly lauded for what she had accomplished at the time, back in 1999, for the total life-changing experience that she had made for reportedly under a two million dollar budget. She uses her camera as not a device of glorifcation, but of a cold, sad, gut-shatteringly real look at what somebody had to go through, and, in this respect, she deserves even more credit for actually making a film that can help teenagers, and anyone, really, dealing with the same problems that Teena delt with. In the end, really, it is entirely mean't to be positive. Now, this film is Rated R, but parents truly need to know that is a film that will be more powerful than nearly anything else that either them or there children would ever encounter in there lifetime, and it skates the edge of the NC-17 Rating so closely, that it basically embraces it: Boy's Don't Cry features a stifling amount of story-accurate and uncomfortable stong graphic sexual content and nudity, incluing several lesbian sex scenes including much nudity of breasts, buttocks, and crotches, and, of course, in the form of horrific violence, the brutal and utterly heart-wrenching rape scene. Also, connecting to the field of violence, there are also a few brutal murders and shootings, with gallons of blood on display. Also, there is an incredible amount of alcohol consumption, drinking and drug use in this film, on display in what seems like virtually every scene. And, finally, there is relentless strong language, including hundreds of uses each of f--k, sh-t, b-tch, h-ll, d-mn, g-dd-mn, d-ke, f-gg-t, and more. Boy's Don't Cry is a film that carries with it an astonishing array of sadness ad powerful ideas, but, as such, while it may actually play well with teens who will understand the themes and situations that Teena wen't through, be advised that it is extremely explicit in nearly every way, and is asolutely, under no circumstances what so ever, a film that the faint of heart should ever watch. You have been warned. Reccomended.
What other families should know
Great messages
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much consumerism
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking