Hilary Swank, Best Actress in Boys Don’t Cry (1999)
Boys Don’t Cry is another powerful film that is difficult to watch. It stars Hilary Swank playing the role of a real-life trans man named Brandon Teena, who moved to Nebraska, fell in love with his partner Lana Tisdel (Sevigny), and fell victim to a grisly hate crime by two bigoted men. The film was shot with low lighting in an attempt to bring out the gritty look of living in rural America and feel more authentic than a typical, over-produced Hollywood film. Director Kimberly Peirce wanted to make a film that put a spotlight on transphobia, homophobia, internalized aggression, toxic masculinity, female masculinity, and criticizing heterosexual norms. The film is meant to be hard to watch because many LGBTQ people don’t end up with a Disney–like happy ending, and stories like this need to be heard rather than swept under the rug.
Upon its initial release, Boys Don’t Cry received an NC-17 rating for its controversial subject matter (rape and murder) and grisly violence but was later dropped down to an R-rating to reach a broader audience during its limited release. The film did receive some criticisms from the people who knew Brandon Teena personally during his life and claimed the events in the film did not accurately portray the events that occurred.
Hilary Swank swept almost every award she was nominated in for her performance as Brandon Teena, and both she and Chloe Sevigny were nominated for their performances at the Academy Awards that year. Swank was awarded Best Actress, and three years later won again for her performance as a female boxer in Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby.
- Of note: In 2019, the Library of Congress selected Boys Don’t Cry for preservation in the National Film Registry of the United States for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”