Boys Don’t Cry

Birth of a star.

Hilary Swank had already top-lined The Next Karate Kid when she landed the lead in this heart-rending true-crime tale, but this was the first time the former Washington state resident had a chance to really show off her skills.

Playing Brandon Teena, a trans man fighting to survive in a world stacked against him, Swank is extraordinary.

She’s matched by Chloë Sevigny, as a young woman trapped between love and fear, and Peter Sarsgaard, channeling blank-faced evil.

It’s not an easy movie to watch, but it remains an important one, especially in our current environment.

Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father

Maybe the most haunting documentary I’ve seen.

This true-crime saga, which helped bring changes to Canadian law, is comparable to having an open wound poked for 93 minutes.

It’s emotionally-lacerating, and, admittedly hard to watch at times, but the love for its fallen protagonists, which comes through in every frame, helps balance things.

Filmmaker Kurt Kuenne set out to make a film just for family and friends, a cinematic scrapbook which would capture childhood friend Andrew Bagby in happier times before his murder.

Instead it grew into something with far more widespread impact, and remains an enduring masterpiece of the genre.

The Onion Field

A powerhouse story of wrecked lives.

Based on a true-crime novel, the film burrows deep to follow the aftermath of a cop killing, tracking the men responsible, and another officer haunted by his own survival.

John Savage, a truly-great (and largely unknown) actor, had an incredible three-film run from 1978-1979, with this pic slotting in between The Deer Hunter and Hair.

Here he plays LAPD detective Karl Hettinger, who escaped death by a quirk of fate, but must now deal, day after agonizing day, with his inability to save his partner, played by future Cheers bartender Ted Danson.

Raw and uncompromising.

Tread

“I think he spent too much time by himself, sitting out in his hot tub…”

Convinced the residents of a small Colorado town united to ruin his life, Marvin Heemeyer went bonkers in 2004.

Using impressive mechanical skills, he turned a bulldozer into a homemade tank, then leveled half of main street.

It’s a sensational true story, largely ignored in the outside world as Ronald Reagan’s death the next day captured the news cycle.

Now, thanks to this documentary, which uses extensive tape recordings left behind by Heemeyer, you can witness what happens when people stop being polite … and start getting real.