I Am Heath Ledger

image for I Am Heath Ledger

Short takes

Not suitable under 14; parental guidance to 14 (adult themes, course language, sexual references)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for I Am Heath Ledger
  • a review of I Am Heath Ledger completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 18 May 2017.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 14 Not suitable due to adult themes, course language and sexual references.
Children aged 14 Parental guidance recommended due to adult themes, course language and sexual references.
Children aged 15 and over Ok for this age group.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: I Am Heath Ledger
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Coarse language
Length: 92 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

I Am Heath Ledger is a feature-length documentary exploring the life of famous actor and artist Heath Ledger. The documentary features footage taken by Ledger himself, whilst also including interviews with his friends, family, and colleagues such as Ben Mendelson, Naomi Watts, Ang Lee, Emile Hirsch, Ben Harper, and others. The documentary incorporates photographs taken by Heath himself, as well as short films and music videos he produced. There is also behind the scenes footage from films he starred in, as well as excerpts from the films themselves.


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Art and entertainment; Love and friendship; Mentor-ship; Death; Mental health; Physical health; Sexuality: Risk-taking.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence and references to violence within the film, including:

  • Within some of the featured interviews, Heath’s friends refer to him as a ‘good fighter’.
  • There is behind the scenes footage of films like The Patriot, where Heath is seen shooting rifles, utilising swords and other weapons, etc.
  • There is an excerpt/scene from Monster’s Ball, where the actor Billy Bob Thornton smacks Heath’s character across the head multiple times.
  • There is an excerpt from the movie The Dark Knight, where Heath, as the character of the Joker, puts a knife inside someone’s mouth in a threatening manner.
  • There is a scene from the film The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus where Heath plays a character who is hanging off the edge of a bridge with a noose tied around his neck.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

  • Nothing further noted.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

  • There are references throughout the documentary to Heath Ledger’s death, which may disturb or upset some younger viewers.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

  • Children in this age group could still be disturbed by the themes and visual images in this movie.

Thirteen and overinfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

  • Nothing further of concern.

Product placement

There is some product placement, including:

  • Due to the nature of the documentary, there are references and video footage of films, music videos, as well as titles of production companies that make movies.

Sexual references

There are some very mild sexual references, including:

  • In one featured interview, a friend of Heath’s states that they attended parties with a ‘bunch of half-naked people and dance music 24/7’.
  • There are references within some of the interviews about the homosexual romance between two characters in the film Brokeback Mountain, which Heath stars in.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is minimal nudity in the film, including:

  • Photographs of Heath standing in the sun shirtless.
  • There are multiple kissing scenes from excerpts of various films Heath starred in, including Ned Kelly (where he is with Naomi Watts) and Brokeback Mountain (with Jake Gyllenhaal).

Use of substances

There is considerable use of substances in the film, including:

  • Photographs and video footage of Heath smoking cigarettes.
  • Footage of Heath drinking alcohol, both by himself as well as at parties with others.
  • Bottles of whisky are shown and referred to.
  • Photographs with bottles of beer at parties, and accompanying voiceover stating that the parties included ‘a bit of drinking and carrying on’.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in the film, including:

  • In an interview with a colleague, it’s stated that the need to film the documentary is ‘fucked up’ (in reference to Heath’s death). Other interviews included language such as ‘Shut the fuck up’.
  • Religious exclamations such as ‘Good Lord’ and ‘Thank God’.
  • Insults such as ‘Damn fool’.
  • Lyrics stating ‘grab my balls’ are included in one of Heath’s short films/rap songs.

In a nutshell

I Am Heath Ledger is a documentary that explores the life and work of the famous artist. Throughout the course of the film and range of featured interviews with Heath’s family, friends and colleagues, the documentary presents a snapshot of a unique man who was driven, passionate and generous of spirit. The film highlights Heath’s humanity, and normalises the crises of confidence he experienced at times, alongside his artistic skills. It also emphasises the importance of taking risks professionally as well as interpersonally, and the merit of trying new things. Throughout the exploration of Heath’s romantic relationships, marriage breakdown, embracement of the role of fatherhood and his career progression, the film emphasises the healing power of art within his life. 

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • The importance of living every moment to the fullest, and drawing something worthwhile out of every situation.
  • The value in taking risks and pushing one’s own personal boundaries to explore what might be possible.
  • The notion that art, music and film can be healing for individuals, and a valuable tool for self-expression.
  • The importance of having an understanding of who one is as a person, and the personal values that a person wishes to live in accordance with.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • Questions related to the significance of masculinity in regards to success for men within the entertainment industry.
  • Issues related to sexuality and sexual orientation, and the stigma surrounding the presentation of homosexuality within the industry.
  • The impact of mental and physical health concerns on Heath’s life and death.