Movie Blog History Class: The Wilhelm Scream

Something I face daily is the realization that having worked for The Movie Blog, I am spoiled with a wealth of “insider movie news” and I am exposed to a LOT of movie geekery. I get to know stuff people don’t know about, and sometimes I have heard of things in movie history that I just assume everyone has heard of.

Today I came across an article and thought I would share it in case some of you are not aware of the “Wilhelm Scream”

ABC News has a story that tells the tale of the most repeated sound effect in movie history:

You’ve probably never heard of it by name, but if you saw “Star Wars,” “Indiana Jones” or even “Toy Story,” you’ve heard the Wilhelm scream.Hollywood’s best known sound effect has been heard by millions of people who probably don’t know that they’re listening to a little piece of film history.

So as the story goes, the movie Distant Drums a soldier screams while being eaten by an alligator. Later in Charge at Feather River the character Pvt. Wilhelm gets shot in the leg by an arrow and they needed a scream to dub in. They used the same sound bite from Distant Drums.

The Wilhelm Scream was born.

The sound clip was used repeatedly in various movies and became a signature for sound technician Ben Burtt after he noticed the sound was repeated and tracked down its origins. He named it the Wilhelm Scream after the character in its first use as an effect and started to use it much more frequently in movies he was involved in including Star Wars and Indiana Jones.

Since then the clip has been added to movies mostly as an insider gag to pay tribute to its origins.

A complete list of movies and tv shows to use this effect can be found at Hollywood Lost and Found

Also, click here for a Youtube Video that has a compilation of some of the more notable Wilhelm Screams that you probably didn’t notice:

So next time you are at the theatre and you hear that distinct screaming sound, you will know that you have heard the Wilhelm Scream.