Films that changed your life: surely you can do better than this survey?

Heart Stamped Hand

Sometimes, when the stars align and the timing is right, a film can rise up and transcend the medium.

These films aren't just films. They're so much more important than that. They're a lifeline. A comfort blanket that you can clutch and hold close when things get difficult. A series of markers that can pinpoint the trajectory of your time on Earth. These films are special. They become part of you. They can change who you are.

And this has been reflected in a new survey, which has asked the public to create their own timeline of films that have helped them through significant milestones. It's a touching notion – that, no matter how stressful a period of personal upheaval is, film will always be there as an inspirational, unwavering companion.

It's hard not to be touched by some of the findings. For instance, almost a quarter of the people who took the survey saw It's a Wonderful Life not just as a perennial fixture in the Christmas television schedules, but as an important personal moment that taught them the value of family. Similarly, it reveals that Billy Elliott has become a universal touchstone for those at a specific turning point in their lives. One in five people cited Billy's determination to follow his dreams as something that helped them transform from an awkward teenager into a confident young adult.

The survey also reveals that films can literally show you what love is. Over 20% of people, it turns out, didn't even know what love was until they saw Love Actually. And now, thanks to that film, they do know what love is. They know that love is a saccharine monologue about airports. It's getting off with a tea lady at a nativity play. It's hanging around outside Keira Knightley's house with a series of creepy placards that you probably wrote in a desperate fit of drunken sobbing and masturbation at 3am once. Thank you, Love Actually, for apparently teaching us the meaning of love more than any other thing that has literally ever been created.

And thank you Van Helsing for putting Kate Beckinsale into that impractical and period-inappropriate catsuit, otherwise 14% of men would still be scrabbling around, impatiently trying to induce their sexual awakening into being by watching Babestation and looking at bras on washing lines. And it would be churlish to remind the 24% of women who gained their sexual awakening by watching Colin Firth in Pride and Prejudice that Colin Firth's version of Pride and Prejudice was actually a television miniseries and not a film, otherwise they'd have to default to their second-best moment of sexual awakening, which was probably Pierce Brosnan bellowing SOS like a concussed elk in Mamma Mia.

You know, I don't think this survey reflects our real movie tastes. All that Love Actually inspired me to do was never watch Love Actually again. The only things that Van Helsing awoke me to was wonderment at how much talcum powder it must have taken to get Beckinsale into her catsuit, and confusion about how she went to the toilet.

Where are all the truly important categories in the timeline? Where's the film that taught us how brutal and uncaring the world is (in my case, Bambi)? Where's the film that taught us that everything we ever do is futile because we'll all be dead soon anyway (Watership Down)? Where's the film that made us renounce everything we thought we loved as a child forever (Transformers 2: Rise of the Fallen)?

We can do better than this, surely. What are the films that pinpointed important moments in your life? Leave your comments below. Say Love Actually and I'll slap you.

Powered by article was written by Stuart Heritage, for on Monday 15th April 2013 17.17 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010