Heath Ledger proved his talent in the past by taking on tough roles (like his haunted characters in Monster’s Ball and Candy), but then he did something for which the GLBT community will be forever grateful. His Academy Award nominated performance as Ennis Del Mar in Brokeback Mountain broke our hearts because Ledger captured the soul of a man who couldn’t break society’s rules and be true to himself.
No other A-List actor could touch Ledger’s courageous work in Brokeback (even his co-star Jake Gyllenhaal did a little “straight man” damage control at the time), so it’s a double tragedy that Ledger didn’t live to see the acclaim his brilliant performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight has received, including a possible Oscar win.
We will never know what other great work Ledger had in him, but his wildly inventive work in The Dark Knight (including making that pencil disappear and donning nurse drag) made it easy for us to name him our Man of the Year.
By Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.