If you’ve been paying attention while watching action movies, you may have wondered why so many movie screams sound the same? It’s called “Wilhelm Scream”, a legendary piece of sound used in a wide variety of movies and TV shows for more than half a century. Screaming is commonly used when someone is shot, falls from a great height, or is thrown by an explosion.
But where does the name come from?
It begins in the 1953 film “The Charge at Feather River”. Soldier Wilhelm sits on a horse and fills a pipe with tobacco when his superior shouts his name. Then he sees an Indian arrow wounding him in the left leg, and at this sight he immediately lets out the legendary cry. This scream was used repeatedly throughout the film.
This was the first use of this scream since it was included in the sound database in the Warner Bros. library. Interestingly, soldier Wilhelm was not the first to “scream” at Wilhelm scream. The original scream comes from the 1951 film “Distant Drums”, a scene in which a cowboy is eaten alive by an alligator, but the sound is named and immortalized after soldier Wilhelm. Otherwise, it is believed that the scream is of the actor Sheb Woolley.
It is the beginning of “Wilhelm Scream” and has been used in many films since. And just to inspire you to listen carefully the next time you watch a movie, here are a few movies where you can hear “Wilhelm Scream”:
In ”Star Wars, Episode IV – New Hope”, in all the chaos of the battle, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leah try to avoid the Death Star. Luke shoots а Stormtrooper and he falls into the abyss with Wilhelm screaming.
Movie sound designer Ben Bart, by putting this scream in this scene, introduced it to modern audiences and coined the term “Wilhelm Scream”. In this film, he actually revives the use of this sound effect, and since then the screams have been heard in other George Lucas films, such as “Indiana Jones: The Riders of the Lost Arc”, “Return of the Jedi” and many others.
A Nazi soldier falls from a truck with a “Wilhelm scream” on the hood of a Nazi jeep in the movie “Indiana Jones: The Thieves of the Lost Coffin”, while Indiana Jones fights with the driver of a Nazi truck to control the steering wheel.