A Tribute to the Wilhelm Scream

by Joey Paur

The Wilhelm Scream is a stock sound effect that has been used repeatedly over the years in movies and TV shows. It was first used in the film 'Distant Drums' in 1951, Up until the mid-70's, the scream recording was used exclusively in Warner Bros. productions, including "Them!" (1954), "Land of the Pharaohs" (1955), "The Sea Chase" (1955), "Sergeant Rutledge" (1960), "PT-109" (1963) and "The Green Berets (1968). In recent times the sound effect has gained a new populrity which started with 'Star Wars'.

The Wilhelm's revival came from motion picture sound designer Ben Burtt, who re-discovered the original recording, which he found as a studio reel labeled "Man being eaten by alligator", and incorporated it into a scene in Star Wars. Although the identity of the individual who recorded the scream is unknown, Burtt uncovered documentation suggesting the scream might have been recorded by singer Sheb Wooley, who was one of the actors in Distant Drums. Burtt named the scream after "Pvt. Wilhelm", a minor character who emitted the same scream in the 1953 film The Charge at Feather River. Burtt began incorporating the effect in other films he worked on, including Raiders of the Lost Ark. Other sound designers picked up on the effect, and inclusion of the sound in pictures became a tradition among the community of sound designers.

So far the Wilhelm scream has been used in 149 titles and counting. Here is a short video clip of some of these films and TV shows.

Here is a list of every title that has used the famous scream:

"Distant Drums" (1951)
1) Three Indians are shot, one after the other.
2) A man is bitten and dragged underwater by an alligator.

"Charge at Feather River" (1953)
1) Wilhelm is struck in the leg by an arrow.
2) A soldier is hit with a spear.
3) An Indian is killed by a soldier with a knife and rolls down a hill.

"The Command" (1954)
An Indian is shot off his horse during an attack on the wagon convoy.

"Them!" (1954)
1) Giant ants attack the crew of a ship at sea.
2) James Whitmore is throttled to death by a giant ant.
3) A soldier is struck by falling debris in the sewer.

"A Star is Born" (1954)
1) While Judy Garland tries to find her way out of a theater during a screening, a Wilhelm is heard in the movie that is playing there (actually "Charge at Feather River.")
2) Someone screams in the rehearsal record of "Somewhere There's a Someone" that Judy Garland plays for James Mason.

"Land of the Pharaohs" (1955)
Victims are thrown to alligators.

"The Sea Chase" (1955)

"Helen of Troy" (1956)

"Sergeant Rutledge" (1960)

"PT 109" (1963)
A crew member of PT-109 screams as a Japanese destroyer smashes through the patrol boat.

"Harper" (1966)
Harper (Paul Newman) strikes Puddler (Roy Jenson) in the head with a rasp.

"The Green Berets" (1968)
Enemy soldiers are thrown into the air by an exploding grenade. "That's what it's all about, Mr. Beckworth!"

"The Wild Bunch" (1969)

"Chisum" (1970)

"Impasse" (1970)
1) Morrison (Burt Reynolds) and a thug fall to the bottom of some stairs during a fight in a warehouse.
2) A moment later, Morrison and another thug come crashing down from a balcony.

"The Scarlet Blade" (1974)

"Hollywood Boulevard" (1976)

"Star Wars" (1977)
A stormtrooper falls into the chasm before Luke and Leia swing across.

"The Star Wars Holiday Special" (TV Special, US air date: 17 November 1978)
A stormtrooper falls over the edge of Chewbacca's family treehouse.

"More American Graffiti" (1979)

"The Big Brawl" (1980)

"The Empire Strikes Back" (1980)
1) A rebel soldier screams when his laser gun dish is hit and explodes during the Hoth battle.
2) Chewie knocks a stormtrooper off the platform of the carbon freezing chamber (barely audible).

"Raiders of the Lost Ark" (1981)
1) A Nazi soldier is thrown from the back of a truck into the windshield of a jeep.
2) Another soldier falls from the left side of the truck, ripping the canvas as he falls.

"History of the World: Part I" (1981)

"Swamp Thing" (1982)
The Swamp Thing grabs a thug and tosses him out of his speedboat.

"Poltergeist" (1982)
Little Carol Ann watches a soldier killed in a war movie after her mom has changed the channel from just static.

"Return of the Jedi" (1983)
A victim is slashed by Luke's lightsaber falls and into the Sarlac pit.
(ALSO: Ben Burtt imitates a Wilhelm during his cameo in the film when he is knocked over a ledge by Han Solo.)

"Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" (1984)
1) While trying to get the vial of antidote, Indy crashes into the nightclub band, and a musician screams.
2) Indy shoots the driver of Lao-Chi's car.
3) Mola Ram is eaten by alligators.

"Explorers" (1985)
Someone is heard screaming during an explosion in the drive-in movie "Starkiller."

"Howard the Duck" (1986)
Howard yells "Banzai!" after he knocks a duck hunter out of his boat who has just screamed a Wilhelm.

"Nutcracker: The Motion Picture" (1986)

"Spaceballs" (1987)
John Candy uses a section of tubes to bounce several laser bolts back at guards, and each of them screams when they're hit - the last one lets out a Wilhelm.

"Willow" (1988)
1) Soldiers crash their carriage after chasing the heroes.
2) The Brownies manage to trigger a huge spear shooter that hits several enemy soldiers.

"The Star Trek Adventure" (Universal Studios, CA, 1988)
A crew member on the bridge of the Enterprise falls during the obligatory "bridge tilt" shot.

"Always" (1989)

"Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" (1989)
A Nazi's grenade explodes, throwing a solider down a hill.

"Three Fugitives" (1989)

"Legion of Iron" (1990)

"Gremlins 2" (1990)
A victim covered with gremlins falls off a ledge.

"Beauty and the Beast" (1991)
Just after Chip says "You guys gotta try this thing!" someone screams on an exterior shot of the castle during the battle.

"Mom and Dad Save the World" (1992)

"Batman Returns" (1992)
Batman punches a clown and throws him out of his way.

"Aladdin" (1992)
Villagers flee in terror as the Genie (controlled by Jafar) lifts the palace into the air.

"Reservoir Dogs" (1992)
1) Mr. Brown (Quentin Tarantino) is shot in his car.
2) Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi) pushes someone out of his way while running down the sidewalk.

"Matinee" (1992)
A couple Wilhelms can be heard in the movie within the movie, "MANT!"

"Young Indiana Jones: The Trenches of Hell" (TV, 1992)

"Young Indiana Jones: Daredevils of the Desert" (TV, 1992)

"Young Indiana Jones: The Phantom Train of Doom" (TV, 1993)

"Evening Class" (1993)

"Young Indiana Jones and the Attack of the Hawkmen" (TV, 1995)

"A Goofy Movie" (1995)
During the song "On the Open Road," Goofy's car strikes a construction scaffold.

"Toy Story" (1995)
Buzz Lightyear is knocked out the bedroom window.

"Runaway Brain" (1995)

"Die Hard: With a Vengeance" (1995)
John McClane (Bruce Willis), while driving through Central Park (literally), almost hits a mime - before confessing that "maybe" he was aiming for him.

"Dante's Peak" (1996)
Paul plunges to his death from a collapsed bridge as it's carried away by mud and lava.

"Hercules" (1997)
Villagers flee in terror as their city is attacked.

"The Second Civil War" (HBO, 1997)
A News Net crew watches a John Wayne movie on a big screen TV while waiting for action at the Idaho border.

"The Fifth Element" (1997)

"Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (Special Edition)" (1997)
A stormtrooper is thrown off a bridge on Coruscant during the final celebration.

"Lethal Weapon 4" (1998)
A gunshot turns a terrorist's flamethrower into a jetpack, and he screams as he flies towards a gas truck - which explodes upon impact.

"Small Soldiers" (1998)
When the action figures are "killed" throughout the film, a Wilhelm can usually be heard.

"Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace" (1999)
Two security officers, one after the other, are hit in the chest and scream Wilhelms during the blaster battle in the Naboo hangar.

"The X-Files" Episode #7X19, "Brand X" (TV, first US air date: 16 April 2000)
A man is killed with a bayonet in an old war movie on TV.

"Little Mermaid II" (Direct-to-video, 2000)
A crew member jumps from his ship and screams just before part of an iceberg falls on it.

"Thirteen Days" (2000)
When an American jet screams over a Russian ship and the deck crew all react and duck, a Wilhelm is heard (just barely).

"The Kid" (2000)
While Russ is talking to Amy, someone screams on TV in a movie that Rusty is watching.

"Golden Dreams" (Disney's California Adventure, 2001)
During an earthquake, a native American screams as he falls to the ground.

"Just Visiting" (2001)
A knight is hit in the face with an axe.

"Tomcats" (2001)
Near the end of the film, a cello player at a charity fundraiser screams when Michael (Jerry O'Connell) collides with him.

"Osmosis Jones" (2001)
Thrax throws someone out of their car.

"Planet of the Apes" (2001)
1) Tival (Erick Avari) is body-slammed to the ground by an ape soldier.
2) General Thade (Tim Roth) hurls two humans into the air at once.
3) Using the sharp point of his helmet, Thade stabs a human.

"The Majestic" (2001)
Someone screams when part of the theater's neon sign explodes.

"Star Trek: The Motion Picture - The Director's Edition" (2001)
When V'ger fires at the Enterprise, a crew member in the engine room screams when they are hit by an energy bolt.

"Wet Hot American Summer" (2001)

"Life or Something Like It" (2002)

"The Salton Sea" (2002)
Kujo (Adam Goldberg) is hit by a bus.

"Spider-man" (2002)

"Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones" (2002)
A ship explodes when it arrives at Coruscant at the beginning of the film.

"Scorched" (2002)
Shmally crashes her motorcycle in the desert, and Doleman screams as he falls off.

"The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" (2002)
A soldier falls during the Helm's Deep battle.

"Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" (2002)
Chuck watches TV (and hears a Wilhelm there) after returning home from a barfight.

"Angel" Episode 64, "A New World" (TV, Original Air Date: 6 May 2002)

"Robbery Homicide Division" Episode #13, "Absolute Perfection" (TV, 2003)
Tommy Cheung is squashed by a bus in the episode’s teaser.

"Cradle 2 the Grave" (2003)

"Agent Cody Banks" (2003)
A guard falls off a balcony and through a glass ceiling.

"Peter Pan" (2003)

"Tears of the Sun" (2003)
Two Wilhelms can be heard in the film when rebel soldiers are blown up in separate scenes.

"A Man Apart" (2003)
In a raid by DEA and Mexican drug agents on a Tijuana nightclub full of drunken cartel honchos and gunmen, a Wilhelm is heard when one of the agents is hit by gunfire.

"Texas: The Big Picture" (IMAX, 2003)

"Dell Computers - PC Dreams" TV Commercial (May 2003)
One of the Dell Interns is repeatedly dropped through a trap door in a dream about how Dell computers are tested.

"The Animatrix: Matriculated" (2003)

"Once Upon A Time In Mexico" (2003)

"Under the Tuscan Sun" (2003)
After moving into her villa, Frances experiences a terrible thunderstorm. Listen very carefully when her washing machine is struck by lightening...

"The Legend of Suriyothai" (2003)
A soldier is pulled down from the battlements during an assault on a fortress.

"Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" (2003)

"Kill Bill: Vol. 1" (2003)

"Looney Tunes: Back in Action" (2003)

"The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" (2003)

"Angel" Episode 110, "Not Fade Away" (TV, Original Air Date: 19 May 2004)

"Win A Date With Tad Hamilton!" (2004)

"Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle" (2004)

"Hellboy" (2004)

"Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy" (2004)

"Paparazzi" (2004)

"Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" (2004)

"Taxi" (2004)

"I Am David" (2004)

"Team America: World Police" (2004)

"Troy" (2004)

"C.S.I. - N.Y." Episode #105, "Grand Master" (TV, Original Air Date: 27 October 2004)
At the beginning of Act 2, the scream is heard during a flashback of a man stabbed in the neck.

"The Pacifier" (2005)

"Sin City" (2005)

"The Ring Two" (2005)

"Kingdom of Heaven" (2005)

"Monster-In-Law" (2005)

"Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith" (2005)

"Madagascar" (2005)

"Fantastic Four" (2005)

"Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit" (2005)

"Get Rich or Die Tryin'" (2005)

"Æon Flux" (2005)

"King Kong" (2005)

"Masters of Horror" Episode 6, "Homecoming" (Showtime, Original Air Date: 2 December 2005)

"Over the Hedge" (2006)

"16 Blocks" (2006)

"She's the Man" (2006)

"X-Men: The Last Stand" (2006)

"Cars" (2006)

"Monster House" (2006)

"Accepted" (2006)

"Flushed Away" (2006)

"Lifted" (2006)

"Norbit" (2007)

"The Invisible" (2007)

"Shrek the Third" (2007)

"Transformers" (2007)

"D-War" (2007)

"Death Proof" (Extended DVD, 2007)

"Your Friend the Rat" (DVD, 2007)

"The Mist" (2007)

"30 Days of Night" (2007)

"The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep" (2007)

"Juno" (2007)

"Speed Racer" (2008)

"Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" (2008)

"Kung Fu Panda" (2008)

"Tropic Thunder" (2008)

"Star Wars: The Clone Wars" (2008)

"The Day the Earth Stood Still" (2008)