The story of the life and death of a young transman
named Brandon Teena. His legal name was Teena Brandon, but that was unknown to the gang of misogynist homophobic rednecks he joined.
They accepted him as one of the guys, and he even started dating the sister of one of these new friends. Of course, when they "discovered" that he was assigned female, they considered him to be a lesbian. Homophobic hate-crimes ensued.
Not to be confused with Men Don't Cry
or the boy band from a SpongeBob SquarePants
- Attractive Bent-Gender: Rare example of a female to male, but in Boys Don't Cry about the real life murder of Brandon Teena, who was a trans man, Hillary Swank not only looked convincingly male (she lived as a man for about a month in preparation for the role; her neighbors believed the young man coming and going was her brother), but was not bad-looking.
- Blatant Lies: Brandon makes up a ton of lies besides the obvious, like having a kid of his own, a model for a sister and has travelled the world. Also, Hilary Swank claimed to be from Nebraska prior to landing the role. When called out for it, she said she lied because that's what Brandon would do.
- Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Blonde Candace, brunette Kate and reddish-blonde Lana.
- Brainless Beauty: Brandon. "I'm going to Memphis, Graceland and Tennessee."
- Broken Aesop: The movie's tagline talks about "having the courage to be yourself" when the film's protagonist is a compulsive liar, and when he does "be himself", he ends up getting raped and murdered.
- By the gender theorist standard, since gender is a social construct, Brandon actually wasn't lying about his gender. According to that viewpoint, he is male, just not biologically.
- California Doubling: Despite taking place in Nebraska, the "night in the big city" montage was filmed in, and features the prominent buildings of, downtown Dallas. Apparently Texas cities are metropolitan enough to fill in for other states, but not for its own.
- Disappeared Dad: Lana's father is nowhere to be found and neither is the father of Candace's baby.
- Downer Ending
- Dyeing for Your Art: Hilary Swank lived as a man to prepare for her role as Brandon Teena.
- Foregone Conclusion: The movie is based on the last days of a famous murder victim.
- Hard-Drinking Party Girl: Lana and her mother.
- The Hero Dies: Brandon himself at the end.
- Heteronormative Crusader: Brandon's friends take this path when they find out his biological sex.
- Meaningful Echo: When Brandon walks Lana home and she's embarassed about her house, he says "You're so pretty." Near the end of the film when Brandon is hiding out in the barn after being raped, Lana says "You're so pretty," and kisses him.
- Missing Mom: The mother of John's daughter April is out of the picture.
- Rape as Drama
- Shower of Angst: Brandon takes a shower after he has been raped by men who discovered his birth sex, with the camera lingering on shots of his female body.
- Star-Making Role: Hillary Swank as Brandon Teena.
- Transsexual: Brandon
- Triumphant Reprise: The girls sing the song "The Bluest Eyes In Texas" by Restless Heart in the bar where Brandon first meets Lana. At the end of the film when Lana is finally leaving Falls City the cover by Nina Persson plays over it.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Kate disappears after Brandon is exposed in front of everyone and we never hear what happened to her. Also, Candace's baby is last seen walking back into the bedroom after she's been shot, and it's not said what happened to him. Ditto for John's daughter April.