Boys Don't Cry is a 1999 American independent 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 transgender man played by Hilary Swank, who pursues a relationship with a young woman, played by Chloë Sevigny. Brandon Teena is raped and murdered by male acquaintances after they discover he is biologically female. The picture explores the themes of freedom, courage, identity and empowerment. The film was distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures and was released theatrically in October 1999.
After reading about the murder of Brandon Teena while in college, Peirce intently researched the case—as well as Teena's life—and worked on a screenplay for the film for almost five years. All She Wanted, the 1993 book about the case written by Aphrodite Jones, inspired Peirce, but she chose to focus the story on the relationship between Teena and his girlfriend, Lana Tisdel. Many actors campaigned for the lead over the course of three years; the then unknown Swank was cast because her personality seemed similar to Teena's. The film also stars Lou Perry, Peter Sarsgaard, Brendan Sexton III, Alicia Goranson, Jeannetta Arnette, and Matt McGrath. The characters were based on real-life people, and some were composites. Shooting lasted from October until November 1998 and filming took place in various locations throughout Texas.
Boys Don't Cry premiered at the New York Film Festival on October 8, 1999 to overwhelmingly positive acclaim from critics. Praise was generally focused on the two lead performances by Swank and Sevigny. The film received a limited nationwide release on October 22, 1999, and performed moderately well at the North American box office. At the 72nd Academy Awards in 2000, Swank was awarded an Oscar for Best Actress, while Sevigny was nominated for Best Supporting Actress. The film has been cited as one of the most controversial and talked-about films of 1999, initially being assigned an NC-17 rating, later modified to an R rating. The release of the film was concurrent with the murder of a young gay man, Matthew Shepard, which sparked additional public interest. The film was named after the song of the same name by The Cure, and a cover version of the song appears in the film.