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Wilhelm Scream

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What is the Wilhelm Scream?

The Wilhelm scream is one of the most iconic sound effects in film and television history. Though many may not know it by name, most would instantly recognize its distinct shrieking yell. So, where did this famous scream come from?

The Iconic Wilhelm Scream: A Brief History

The scream first originated back in 1951 in the film Distant Drums. During a scene where soldiers are wading through a swamp, one of them lets out a pained yell as he is dragged underwater by an alligator. The voice actor who performed the scream was later identified as Sheb Wooley.

This scream was later adopted by sound designer Ben Burtt, who discovered it on an old soundtrack album. He labeled it “Wilhelm” as a nod to the minor character Pvt. Wilhelm in the 1953 western The Charge at Feather River, who lets out the same scream when he gets shot in the leg with an arrow.

Burtt went on to use what became known as the “Wilhelm Scream” in a number of blockbuster films like the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises. It became an inside joke among the sound design community, showing up in everything from Disney animated films to Quentin Tarantino bloodbaths.

The scream has since appeared in over 400 films, TV shows, and video games ranging from Toy Story to Batman: Arkham Asylum. Film buffs now listen closely for the Wilhelm Scream, smiling knowingly when they catch it. It has become ingrained in Hollywood’s sound library as a piece of movie history, entertaining audiences every time with its over-the-top wail. So next time you hear a distant scream in a movie, listen closely – it just may be the legacy of Wilhelm carrying on.