The Most Famous Sound Clip in Hollywood

April 12, 2024


The Wilhelm scream is possibly the most famous piece of stock sound footage and has been used in over 400 films and television shows dating back to 1951. It’s a good bet you’ve heard it more than once.

The Wilhelm scream originated during the 1951 western Distant Drums when one of the soldiers in the movie gets bitten and dragged underwater by an alligator. He is then heard letting out a very distinctive scream.

The famous scream was recorded later during a different take and inserted for the scene. The sound clip was voiced by actor Sheb Wooley who later recorded the 1958 song, “The Purple People Eater.”

Sound Designer, Ben Burtt, found the sound clip years later, appropriately titled, “Man being eaten by alligator.” Burtt is credited with giving the sound its now well-known name called the Wilhelm scream, which 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. It was the third film to have used the sound.

Burtt inserted the sound into a scene during Star Wars, where he was the sound designer, and he 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 in other films.

The sound clip has been used in over 400 movies, video games, cartoons, and TV shows. Peter Jackson, director of the Lord of the Rings, used it in his productions, and you can hear it in many Disney and Pixar movies.

Here is a compilation of the Wilhelm scream used in the movies. You’ll never miss it when you hear it again.

About the author 

Daniel Ganninger - The writer, editor, and chief lackey of Knowledge Stew, the author of the Knowledge Stew line of trivia books, and editor of Fact World and the Knowledge Stew sister site on Medium, our ad-free subscription sites. I hope you learn many new things here that add to your knowledge.

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