In honor of the late actor’s birthday, we take a look back at his 5 times he taught us how to become better people

Written by: Pooja Nayyar – April 4th, 2021 3:46 pm pst

Today would have been Heath Ledger’s 42nd birthday. During his career in Hollywood, the late actor built-up an impressive career for himself, known for his moving performances, diverse roles, and intense method acting. No subject was off-limits for Ledger and he is admired for never shying away from the taboo, often taking on the responsibility of telling those difficult, unorthodox stories. In doing so, he has solidified his spot as one of the greats. In honor of his birthday, we take a look back at 5 lessons we learned from Heath Ledger.

The Dark Knight

In his coveted role as the Joker, which earned him an Oscar, Ledger became one with his character. He famously spent a month locked up in a hotel room, pushing himself to the point of mental and physical exhaustion. And while the Joker isn’t the first person I would look to for advice, there are some things we can learn from the iconic villain. Mainly, he teaches us to smile through life. The Joker’s infamous smile is always on display, often paired with his evil laugh, even during the tough times. I think we can all take a page from the Joker’s book and take on our problems with a smile.

Brokeback Mountain

In Brokeback Mountain, Ledger plays Ennis Del Mar, a closeted cowboy who has been in a 20-year affair with fellow sheep herder Jack Twist (played by Jake Gyllenhaal). 16 years later, the groundbreaking movie is still seen as an LGBTQIA+ victory as it opened up a conversation about tolerance and acceptance, and showed the world that there is a place for gay love stories in Hollywood. If there is anything that the audience took away from this movie, it is to be more open-minded, to love people as they are, and to stop living with hate.


In the 2006 drama, Ledger plays Dan, an aspiring poet with an ever-increasing heroin addiction. Together, he and his girlfriend Candy get hooked on the drug and head into a downward spiral. After the two separate and get clean, Candy tries to rekindle their relationship. Dan refuses and explains to her that when together, the two will always fall back into old habits. Ledger’s character teaches us that life isn’t a fairy-tale and sometimes love isn’t enough.

10 Things I Hate About You

Ledger earned the title of teen heartthrob with his portrayal of Patrick Verona in the iconic 1999 rom-com 10 Things I Hate About You. Normally seen as a lighthearted chick-flick, the movie actually holds lots of valuable life lessons that we can all learn from. One of my favorite lines from the film is when Ledger’s character says “Don’t let anyone make you feel like you don’t deserve what you want.” I think we can all apply this gem into our own lives and stop listening to others’ opinions. You deserve to live the life you dream of.

Monster’s Ball

In the 2001 drama, Ledger plays Sonny Grotowski, a corrections officer who commits suicide after his father Hank, another corrections officer, told him that he hated him. The film was truly ahead of its time, especially in regards to prison reform, a topic that has only recently gained heavy traction. Sonny’s concern over his father’s questionable treatment of the inmates highlights just how inhumane America’s prison system really is. Ledger’s character exposes the injustice that many still face and reminds us to treat everyone with kindness. 

Ledger is a Hollywood legend who was taken far too soon, but who will live on forever through his masterful performances. Today, and everyday, we can honor him by practicing all of the on-screen lessons his characters have taught us. 

Thank you, Heath Ledger for teaching us how to be better people and for gracing the world with your talent. Your presence on and off the screen will always be missed. Happy birthday and may you rest in peace. 

About The Author:

Pooja Nayyar is a student of Political Science at NYU and an Intern at AfterBuzz TV. She is passionate about entertainment news, photography, and all things pop culture.

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