11 years on from his tragic death at the age of 28, a brief piece of old footage perfectly encapsulates how the Australian actor was a leading man ahead of his time.
Ledger, whose breakthrough came in 1999's teen comedy 10 Things I Hate About You, had already established himself as one of Hollywood's most promising rising stars by the early 2000s, but it was his role in Ang Lee's 2005 romantic drama Brokeback Mountain that first proved to audiences how much the young star from perth was capable of.
In an era when realistic depictions of same-sex love were still a rarity on the big screen - much less in a mainstream movie marketed to audiences across the world - Ledger gave one of the performances of his career as gruff rancher Ennis Del Mar, who falls for Jake Gyllenhaal's fellow farm hand Jack Twist in 1960s Wyoming.
Now, as the world marks a decade since Ledger was found dead in his New York apartment on 22 January 2008 after suffering an accidental overdose, old footage of the star shutting down homophobic criticism of Brokeback Mountain has resurfaced online.
It's a sad reminder of just what Hollywood lost.
Asked during a press junket what he would say to people who believed Brokeback Mountain's gay themes to be "disgusting", Ledger had a robust and typically eloquent response.
"I think it's a real shame - I think it's immature for one," the then 26-year-old replied.
"I think it's an incredible shame that people go out of their way to voice their disgust or their negative opinions against the ways in which two people choose to love each other.
"At least voice your opinions about how two people show hate and violence and anger towards one another."
Ledger, who was later nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance, continued: "I also feel like [the film] will surprise people. It's obviously about two men in love and it's obviously 'gay-themed' and it's very easily labelled, but unfotunately people are quick in life to label stuff they're uncomfortable with.
Heath Ledger's response to calling the relationship in "Brokeback Mountain" disgusting pic.twitter.com/CF71NGDvmD— Izzie (@Izzie177) January 17, 2018
"Get over the fact it's two men - that's the point... We're showing that love between two men is just as infectious and emotional and strong an pure as it is with heterosexual love.
"And if you can't understand it, just don't go see the movie. We don't care.
"Deal with it in your own private life. Don't voice it out. We don't want to know."