Hollywood’s Most Famous Scream

October 7, 2014

496px Wilhelm scream WikiWorld
Greg Williams/WikiWorld

The Wilhelm scream is possibly the most famous piece of stock sound footage used in a wide variety of movies.  It has been used in over 200 films starting from 1951.  It’s a good bet you’ve heard it more than once.

The Wilhelm scream was believed to originate during the 1951 western, Distant Drums.  One of the soldiers in the movie gets bitten and dragged underwater by an alligator, and the scream was recorded in a different take.  The sound was likely voiced by actor Sheb Wooley.  The sound is named after the character, Private Wilhelm, in the 1953 western, The Charge at Feather River.  Wilhelm gets shot by an arrow and belts out the now famous sound effect.

Sound Designer, Ben Burtt, found the soundclip in later years, appropriately titled, “Man being eaten by alligator”.  He inserted the sound into a scene of Star Wars, and Burtt is credited with naming it the Wilhelm scream.  Burtt continued to use the sound effect in movies he worked on, including all of the Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies.  The sound became a sort of in-house joke between sound designers, and they began to spread the use of the clip.

Since 2011 the sound clip has been used in over 225 movies, video games, and T.V. shows.  Peter Jackson, director of the Lord of the Rings, even used it in his productions. Here is a compilation of the Wilhelm scream used in the movies.  You’ll never miss it again.

About the author 

Daniel Ganninger - The writer, editor, and chief lackey of Knowledge Stew, the author of the Knowledge Stew line of great trivia books, and editor of Fact World and the Knowledge Stew sister site on Medium. I hope you find things here to annoy those around you with your new found knowledge.

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