Gays and lesbians are too frequently stereotyped or shown in a negative light in films, a survey suggests.

According to research by the UK Film Council, lesbians are often shown as male fantasies and gay men are depicted too frequently as camp.

Seventy-per cent of the 1,705 people surveyed by Harris Interactive said that films tend to focus on gay people having problems rather than being everyday people.

And 63 per cent said that gay characters are too often defined by their sexual orientation.

Gay, lesbian and bisexual respondents tended to be more critical of their depiction in films, with 80 per cent saying that gay characters seemed to be defined by the fact they are gay.

Sixty-five per cent of LGB respondents said gay characters tended to meet tragic ends and 70 per cent said they often seemed to appear as a token gesture.

Almost four-firths said gay men were shown too frequently as being camp.

Meanwhile, two-thirds of LGB people criticised how lesbians were portrayed, with 64 per cent saying they appeared as male fantasies and 63 per cent saying they were shown as sexually aggressive.

Mary FitzPatrick, head of diversity at the UK Film Council, said: “Film remains one of the most popular pastimes for people in the UK and this research highlights the often overlooked views, opinions and needs of the diverse groups that make up an important part of the film industry’s audience. Film has the ability to change behaviour and shift opinion, so we in the Industry all have a responsibility to ensure that these findings are not ignored.”

Andrew Pierce, a journalist at the Daily Mail and supporter of the research, who is gay, commented: “This research demonstrates just how powerful film can be in changing the views of people in society. And what is just as powerful is how it clearly shows that film roles for gay people are helping to perpetuate stereotypes.

“It is essential these findings are given the attention they deserve and that changes are put in place to ensure we include diverse groups in film, which will help to help overcome outmoded and misguided attitudes towards gay people”.