Cleaning up at the box office

Angry man with vacuum cleaner

A story about self-wringing mops might sound like the worst ever movie pitch – but that’s the deal with David O Russell-directed biopic Joy, opening in UK cinemas on 1 January.

Jennifer Lawrence stars as Joy Mangano, the struggling single mother who invented the Miracle Mop. Don your Marigolds as we rate the top cleaning scenes on film…

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

Disney’s dialogue-free 1940 masterpiece Fantasia popularised Goethe’s poem with this nine-minute sequence, set to Paul Dukas’s symphony. A trainee magician casts a spell on a broom to make it clean the workshop. But everything soon spirals soggily out of control.

Cleanliness rating: 2/5. A Mickey Mouse operation.

American Beauty

“I will sell this house today.” In the Oscar-winning 1999 drama, uptight estate agent Carolyn Burnham (Annette Bening) strips down to her silk negligee and scrubs a drab house from top to bottom in a bid to flog it to a distinctly unimpressed couple.

Cleanliness rating: 3/5. You won’t find Foxtons going this far.

Mary Poppins

An entire generation who saw the 1964 Disney musical tried snapping their fingers before doing their chores, hoping to emulate Julie Andrews as a nanny who magically tidies the Banks children’s nursery, while cheerily singing A Spoonful of Sugar.

Cleanliness rating: 4/5. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

Pulp Fiction

Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 crime flick goes into cleanup mode when Vincent (John Travolta) accidentally shoots an associate in the face as their car hits a bump. The panicking hitmen call fixer Mr Wolf (Harvey Keitel), who supervises a scrubdown.

Cleanliness rating: 3/5. “How come I get the itty-bitty pieces of brain detail?” protests Jules (Samuel L Jackson).

The Odd Couple

When neat-freak Felix (Jack Lemmon) moves in with slob Oscar (Walter Matthau) in the 1968 classic, he drives his friend crazy with endless cleaning, even ruining their weekly poker game by scrubbing the cards with disinfectant.

Cleanliness rating: 5/5. As Oscar says: “Two single men living alone shouldn’t have a cleaner house than my mother.”

Mrs Doubtfire

Disguised as an elderly Scottish housekeeper to hang out with his own kids, the 1993 hit sees Robin Williams vacuum to the strains of Aerosmith’s Dude (Looks Like a Lady) and play air guitar on a broom.

Cleanliness rating: 2/5. Keeps covering the same small patch of carpet.

Confessions of a Window Cleaner

This (oo-er) entry in the series of soft-porny 70s sex farces followed leering Timmy (Robin Askwith) as he tried to satisfy his frustrated female customers. He was too busy being pounced on by predatory housewives to do much actual cleaning.

Cleanliness rating: 1/5. Filthy.

Powered by article was written by Michael Hogan, for The Observer on Sunday 27th December 2015 07.00 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010