Boys Don't Cry Movie Poster Image

Boys Don't Cry



Excellent but brutal drama examines life of transsexual man.
  • Review Date: July 11, 2005
  • 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 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

This review of Boys Don't Cry was written by

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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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
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
Written byAnonymous September 8, 2014

This movie is NOT for young teens.

I do not regret watching this movie, but I do wish I had known that there was a scene involving graphic sexual assault at the end, as I would have preferred to skip past it. The way that the movie handles everything was very well done and extremely heart wrenching.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking


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