The Wilhelm Scream

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Most of you may not be aware of the famous Wilhelm Scream, but rest assured all of you have heard it…many times. The Wilhelm Scream is a famous sound effect that has appeared in over 200 films. This effect is believed to have first been created for the film Distant Drums in 1951, but rose to prominence when Star Wars sound designer Ben Burtt, rediscovered the effect and placed in in Star Wars: A New Hope.

Originally part of a sound effects library the reel was named “Man being eaten by alligator”, Burtt renamed the effect for the character of Private Wilhelm, a cowboy who is shot with an arrow in the film The Charge at Feather River (1953). Since then it has appeared in all of the Star Wars and Indiana Jones films as well as countless others. This is a real piece of film history even though it’s astoundingly silly and kind of trivial. So the next time you see hear that famous scream, you’ll know where it came from and in the words of G.I. Joe, “Knowing is half the battle.”

Below is a short history of the Wilhelm Scream as well as a fantastic compilation of its uses.

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