Friday, July 13, 2007


It is probably the most famous scream in film. In countless movies since the early 1950s (mostly in westerns but not exclusively), many dying characters cried out the same scream before they perished. The first film to use the "Wilhelm Scream" was Warner Brothers' Distant Drums (1951) starring Gary Cooper. A soldier cries out the WS when an alligator grabs him.
It was used again in the 1953 western The Charge at Feather River. Private Wilhelm (pictured) cries out the WS when shot with an arrow. The WS went on to be used in other Warner Brothers movies and television shows. Then it slowly faded from use.
Then, in 1977, Ben Burtt was hired to create sound effects for Star Wars. While researching sound elements to use in the space adventure, he found the original Distant Drums scream - which he called "Wilhelm" after the character in Charge at Feather River. (The Distant Drums character had no name.) Burtt included the WS in all the Star Wars and Indiana Jones films. And the WS began its second life. It has been used in countless other movies including Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean, Kill Bill, Toy Story and Beauty and the Beast. Last count, according to the Hollywood Lost & Found site (, said that the WS had been used in 138 movies.
A Wilhelm Scream highlight short is now on You Tube ( Check it out.


Steve Lee said...

Thanks for the link! Glad you like the story.

Have you seen THIS?

Paul McElligott said...

Ah, the Wilhelm. The "Where's Waldo" of Hollywood sound editing.

Christopher55 said...

Steve: You have a terrific site.

Paul: Yep.