My Beautiful Laundrette

My Beautiful Laundrette is a 1985 British romantic comedy-drama film directed by Stephen Frears from a screenplay by Hanif Kureishi. The film was one of the first films released by Working Title Films. The film is set in London during the Thatcher years, as reflected in the complex, and often comical, relationships between members of the Pakistani and English communities. The story focuses on Omar (Gordon Warnecke), a young Pakistani man living in London, and his reunion and eventual romance with his childhood friend Johnny (Daniel Day-Lewis), now a street punk. The two become the caretakers and business managers of a launderette originally owned by Omar's uncle Nasser.

My Beautiful Laundrette
Theatrical release poster
Directed byStephen Frears
Written byHanif Kureishi
Produced bySarah Radclyffe
CinematographyOliver Stapleton
Edited byMick Audsley
Music byStanley Myers
Hans Zimmer
(as Ludus Tonalis)
Distributed byMainline Pictures[1]
Release dates
  • 7 September 1985 (1985-09-07) (TIFF)
  • 16 November 1985 (1985-11-16)
Running time
97 minutes[2]
CountryUnited Kingdom
  • English
  • Urdu
Box office$3 million[4]

The British Film Institute ranked My Beautiful Laundrette as the 50th greatest British film of the 20th century.[5] The film was adapted into a stage play in 2002 and 2019.



Born in England, Omar Ali is a young Pakistani-British man living in South London during the mid-1980s. His father, Hussein, once a famous left-wing journalist in Pakistan, lives in London but dislikes Britain's society and its international politics. His dissatisfaction with the world and a family tragedy have led him to sink into alcoholism, and Omar has become his caregiver. By contrast, Omar's paternal uncle Nasser is a successful entrepreneur and an active member of London's Pakistani community. Hussein asks Nasser to give Omar a job. He works for a brief time as a car washer in one of his uncle's garages, and then is assigned to manage a run-down laundrette.

At Nasser's, Omar meets a few other community members: Tania, Nasser's daughter and possibly a future bride; and Salim, who trafficks drugs and hires Omar to deliver them from the airport. While Omar is driving Salim and his wife home that night, the three are attacked by a group of right-wing extremist street punks. Their apparent leader turns out to be Johnny, Omar's childhood friend. Omar tries to reestablish their past friendship, offering Johnny a job and a chance for a better life by working with him to fix up the laundrette. Johnny decides to accept, and they resume a romantic relationship. Running out of money, Omar and Johnny sell one of Salim's drug deliveries to make cash for the laundrette's substantial renovation.

One night Omar confronts Johnny about his right-wing past. The lover says that although he cannot make up for that, he is with Omar now. Nasser visits the laundrette with his mistress, Rachel. As they dance together in the laundrette, Omar and Johnny make love in the back room, narrowly escaping discovery. At the inauguration of the laundrette, Tania confronts Rachel about having an affair with her father. Rachel accuses Nasser of having invited Tania in order to have her insulted, and storms off despite his protests. Later that night, a drunk Omar proposes to Tania, who accepts on the condition that he raise money to get away. Soon after, Salim reveals to Omar that he is on to the two young men, and demands his money back from the drug sale. Omar's father stops by late in the night and appeals to Johnny to persuade Omar to go to college, because he is unhappy with his son's role.

Offering Salim a chance to invest in his businesses as a much needed 'clean outlet' for his money, Omar decides to take over two laundrettes owned by a friend of Nasser. Salim drives Johnny and Omar to view one of the properties, and he expresses his dislike of the British non-working punks in Johnny's gang. He attempts to run them over and injures one of them. Tania drops by the laundrette and tells Johnny she is leaving, asking him to come along. He refuses, implying the truth about his relationship with Omar, and she departs wordlessly. Rachel falls ill with a skin rash apparently caused by a ritual curse from Nasser's wife, and decides it is best for all that she and Nasser part ways.

After Salim arrives and enters the laundrette, the punks, who had been lying in wait, trash his car. When he runs out, he is ambushed and viciously attacked. Johnny goes out to defend him, despite their mutual dislike, and the punks attack him in turn. He refuses to fight back, and they beat him savagely until Omar returns and intervenes. He protects Johnny as the punks smash the window of the laundrette and flee.

Nasser visits Hussein, and the two fathers discuss their respective failures, agreeing between them that only Omar's future matters now. Nasser sees Tania at the train platform while she is running away, and he shouts to her but she disappears. Meanwhile, at the laundrette, Omar cares for Johnny. The film ends with a scene of them shirtless and playfully splashing each other with water from a sink.





My Beautiful Laundrette was Frears's third feature film for the cinema. Originally shot in 16mm for Channel 4 on a low budget, it was met with such critical acclaim at the Edinburgh Film Festival that it was distributed to cinemas. It eventually became an international success.[6][7]

The role of Johnny was originally offered to Gary Oldman, who turned it down after telling Frears he had issues with the script and the dialogues.[8] Oldman and Frears worked together two years later on Prick Up Your Ears.

The film marked the first time Oliver Stapleton was in charge of cinematography in one of Frears's projects. He later became one of the director's consistent collaborators.

The film was made around Wandsworth, Battersea and Vauxhall, all districts of South London. The location of the building which housed the laundrette on Wilcox Road, Vauxhall, was given a rainbow plaque in 2021.[9]

Reception and accolades


My Beautiful Laundrette received positive reviews. It holds a 98% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes from 42 critics, with an average rating of 8.2/10. The website's critics consensus reads, "My Beautiful Laundrette is fast and all over the place because it has so much to say, and show, including a highly watchable fresh-faced Daniel Day-Lewis."[10] On Metacritic, the film holds a weighted average score of 75 out of 100, based on 20 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[11]

The film grossed $3 million worldwide, including $2.5 million in the United States and Canada.[4][12]

Hanif Kureishi was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. He lost to Woody Allen (Hannah and Her Sisters). Kureishi was also nominated for a BAFTA Film Award. The screenplay received an award from the American National Society of Film Critics.[13]

Daniel Day-Lewis received the award for Best Supporting Actor from the U.S. National Board of Review of Motion Pictures, and the picture was nominated for Best Film.[14]



The original soundtrack, credited to Ludus Tonalis (a name associated with a work by the composer Paul Hindemith), was produced by Stanley Myers and Hans Zimmer. Non-original music included the waltz Les Patineurs by French composer Emile Waldteufel and excerpts from Puccini's Madama Butterfly.



In 2002, My Beautiful Laundrette was adapted into a play by Roger Parsley and Andy Graham from Snap Theatre Company, and was performed at British theatres in 2002.[15] The music score, composed by Gaudi and Keita, was released on CD by Sub Signal Records.

Another play based on the film was adapted by Kureishi and produced in 2019 at theatres across England.[16] It was a co-production among Leicester's Curve Theatre, Coventry's Belgrade Theatre, Cheltenham's Everyman Studio Theatre and Leeds Playhouse. Gordon Warnecke, who played Omar in the original film, played Omar's father in the adaptation. It was directed by Nikolai Foster and featured both back catalog and new music from the Pet Shop Boys.

In January 2018, Variety reported that Pakistani-American actor Kumail Nanjiani would write and star in a US serialized television version of My Beautiful Laundrette, based loosely on the original film.[17] Hanif Kureishi, Stephen Gaghan, and Alec Berg were said to serve as executive producers.[18]

See also



  1. ^ Park, James (20 November 1985). "London Fest Pulling Full Houses; West End Venues Boost Business". Variety. p. 5.
  2. ^ "My Beautiful Laundrette (15)". British Board of Film Classification. 18 September 1985. Retrieved 10 June 2012.
  3. ^ "Back to the Future: The Fall and Rise of the British Film Industry in the 1980s - An Information Briefing" (PDF). British Film Institute. 2005. p. 26.
  4. ^ a b "15 years of production". Variety. 14 December 1998. p. 102.
  5. ^ British Film Institute - Top 100 British Films (1999). Retrieved 27 August 2016
  6. ^ Hampton, Howard (3 August 2015). "Laundry Days". Retrieved 1 February 2019.
  7. ^ "BFI Screenonline: My Beautiful Laundrette (1985)". Retrieved 1 February 2019.
  8. ^ "Conversations with Gary Oldman". SAG-AFTRA. Archived from the original on 12 December 2021. Retrieved 16 January 2021 – via YouTube.
  9. ^ "Rainbow Plaque: My Beautiful Laundrette". Studio Voltaire. Retrieved 29 November 2022.
  10. ^ My Beautiful Laundrette at Rotten Tomatoes
  11. ^ "My Beautiful Laundrette Reviews". Metacritic. Fandom, Inc. Retrieved 3 September 2023.
  12. ^ My Beautiful Laundrette at Box Office Mojo
  13. ^ Fischer, Susan Alice (2015). Hanif Kureishi: Contemporary Critical Perspectives. London: Contemporary Critical Perspectives. pp. xv. ISBN 978-1472509154.
  14. ^ "1986 Award Winners". National Board of Review of Motion Pictures. 2016. Retrieved 31 October 2016.
  15. ^ Gardner, Lyn (28 January 2002). "My Beautiful Laundrette". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 October 2023.
  16. ^ "Watch Our Archive Recording of Hanif Kureishi's My Beautiful Laundrette". Curve Online. 2 September 2020. Retrieved 7 October 2023.
  17. ^ Wallenstein, Andrew (11 January 2018). "Kumail Nanjiani to Write and Star in 'My Beautiful Laundrette' TV Series". Variety. Retrieved 1 February 2019.
  18. ^ "Gay classic My Beautiful Laundrette to be adapted into a U.S. TV series". Gay Times. 11 January 2018. Retrieved 1 February 2019.

Further reading