There are countless movies out there for fans with a whole range of different tastes, but hundreds of them have one thing in common thanks to an inside joke among filmmakers.
Depending on your preferences you might not have even seen all of the aforementioned films – LOTR is quite a commitment, after all – but if you’ve seen even one of them then you’ll be familiar with the Wilhelm Scream, even if you didn’t know it.
Scenes of fighting, car crashes and general chaos regularly make use of the Wilhelm Scream; a stock sound effect that depicts someone yelling in apparent pain or anguish.
According to Mental Floss, the sound was first used in the 1951 western film Distant Drums and over the years has gone on to be used in everything from huge Hollywood movies to lower budget television shows.
A quick search of the words ‘Wilhelm Scream compilation’ show the scream in action in a whole range of different titles, whether they be animated or live-action, rated U or 18.
Initially intended for a scene of someone being dragging underwater by an alligator, the scream was recorded in a sound booth reportedly to match the instructions of ‘a man getting bit by an alligator, and he screams.’
See a compilation of the scream below:
The sound effect became part of Warner Bros. sound library and was repeatedly used by filmmakers, with viewers catching on in the early 1970s, when a group of sound designers at USC’s film school noticed the noise kept popping up in various films.
The group nicknamed the sound the ‘Wilhelm Scream’ after a character in the 1963 western film The Charge at Feather River, from which they all recognised the sound, and began using it in their student films.
One member of the group just so happened to be future Academy Award-winning sound designer Ben Burtt, and when he was hired to work on Star Wars Burtt decided to include the Wilhelm Scream as a nod to his friends.
He later added the scream in various scenes of other Star Wars films as well as Indiana Jones, and in order to get in on the joke, the likes of Peter Jackson and Quentin Tarantino as well as countless other sound designers, decided to add the sound into their films, too.
Despite being perhaps one of the most recognisable sounds in Hollywood, the person responsible for producing the Wilhelm Scream remained a mystery for decades until Burtt tracked down a call sheet from Distant Drums which listed an actor named Sheb Wooley, who is thought to be the most likely candidate for the iconic sound.
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