Boys Don’t Cry is a 1999 American independent romantic drama film directed by Kimberly Peirce and co-written by Andy Bienen. The film is a dramatization of the real-life story of Brandon Teena, a trans man played in the film by Hilary Swank, who is beaten, raped and murdered by his male acquaintances after they discover he is transgender.
Brandon Teena (Hilary Swank) is a young female-to-male non-operative transgender man, whose birth name was Teena Renae Brandon.When Brandon is discovered to be transgender by the brother of a former girlfriend, he becomes the target of physical threats. Not long after, he is involved in a bar fight and is evicted from his cousin’s trailer. Brandon moves to Falls City, Nebraska, where he cultivates friendships with ex-convicts John Lotter (Peter Sarsgaard) and Tom Nissen (Brendan Sexton III), and their friends Candace (Alicia Goranson) and Lana Tisdel (Chloë Sevigny). Brandon becomes romantically involved with Lana, who is unaware of his biological sex and troubled past. The two make plans to move to Memphis, where Brandon will manage Lana in a karaoke career.
Brandon is detained for charges that arose prior to his relocation and placed in the women’s section of the Falls City prison. Lana bails Brandon out. After Lana asks why Brandon was in a women’s prison, Brandon lies to her, saying he was born a hermaphrodite and will soon receive a sex change. Lana declares her love for Brandon, “no matter what he is”. Tom and John become suspicious after they read a newspaper article about Brandon that refers to him by his birth name, Teena Brandon. Tom and John force Brandon to remove his pants, revealing his genitals. They try to make Lana look, but she shields her eyes and turns away. After this confrontation Tom and John drag Brandon into John’s car and drive out to an isolated location, where they violently beat and rape him. Afterward, they take Brandon to Tom’s house. Though injured, Brandon escapes through a bathroom window. Having been threatened by his assailants and told not to report the attack to the police, a distressed Brandon is nonetheless convinced by Lana to file a report.
One evening, John and Tom get drunk, and decide to kill Brandon. Despite Lana’s attempts to stop them, John and Tom drive to Candace’s remote house where they find Brandon, who has been hiding in a shed on Candace’s property. John shoots Brandon under the chin, and Tom shoots Candace in the head while Lana fights them and screams for them to stop. Tom stabs Brandon’s lifeless body and then he attempts to shoot Lana, but is stopped by John. John and Tom flee the scene, while Lana lies with Brandon’s dead body.
The next morning, Lana wakes up on Brandon’s dead body. Her mother arrives and takes an emotionally wrenched Lana away from the scene. The film ends with Lana leaving Falls City while a letter Brandon wrote to her is read in a voice-over.
*Kimberly Peirce is an American writer and film director.