The Wilhelm scream is a stock sound effect first recorded in 1951 for the movie Distant Drums. It has been featured in over 150 movies since. Alongside a certain recording of the cry of the Red-tailed Hawk, the "Universal Telephone Ring" and "Castle Thunder," it is probably the most well-known cinematic sound cliché. It is believed to have been provided by actor/singer Sheb Wooley.
The Wilhelm's revival came from Star Wars sound designer Ben Burtt, who tracked down the original recording (which he found as a studio reel labeled "Man being eaten by alligator"). He named it after Wilhelm, a minor character who emitted the scream in the 1953 movie The Charge at Feather River. Its use in Star Wars was the beginning of something of an in-joke amongst some sound designers of the film industry, especially at Skywalker Sound.
Some people, once aware of it, recognize it immediately. Some of them feel that it distracts from the film and interrupts the flow of the film. Other sound effects, such as the Tarzan yell, heard in Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi, are also considered distracting from the narrative. (The Tarzan yell is also heard in Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith, during the establishing shot on Kashyyyk. The pitch of it seems to have been altered slightly.)
Uses in Star WarsEdit
- Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace (Naboo soldier shot in the Theed Hangar; another Naboo soldier 14 seconds later)
- Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones (Naboo guard falling from the ramp of the exploding J-type diplomatic barge on Coruscant)
- Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith (knocked back clone trooper on the Guarlara during the broadside battle with the Invisible Hand)
- Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope ( prior to the chasm swing onboard the first Death Star)
- The Star Wars Holiday Special (Stormtrooper, when thrown off the balcony of Chewbacca's home by Han Solo)
- Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back (Rebel soldier as a turret is destroyed by an All Terrain Armored Transport; When Chewbacca throws a Stormtrooper down right before Han Solo is put in to carbonite)
- Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi (Weequay falling into the Sarlacc pit; another Skiff guard falls into the Sarlacc one minute later; Colonel Dyer knocked off a catwalk by Han Solo in the Endor shield bunker, this one was a real scream, not a stock sound; stormtrooper lifted by crowds on Coruscant)
- Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens (First Order stormtrooper hit by an explosion aboard the Finalizer, as Finn and Poe Dameron attempt to escape in a TIE fighter)
- Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire (When an enemy Stormtrooper is shot off a ledge.)
- Star Wars: Republic Commando (When one of the Clone troopers is shot by super battle droids.)
- Star Wars: Bounty Hunter (some enemies when killed)
- Star Wars: Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike (Stormtrooper shot by Luke Skywalker, seen in a trailer)
- Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (one of a Stormtrooper pushed off in gun ship)
- LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game (When Obi-Wan or Anakin dies during the Battle Over Coruscant level)
- Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (video game) (Twice during Battle of Utapau: one of the clone troopers is killed by a blaster; another Battle Droid is shocked)
- Star Wars: Clone Wars: Clone Wars Chapter 12 (A Clone Trooper being blown away by seismic tank)
- Star Wars: Clone Wars: Chapter 24 (Clone Troopers falling off a building after being attacked by IG-100 MagnaGuards)
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars (At the monastery on Teth, after having recovered Rotta, a clone trooper is hit when an AT-TE cockpit explodes from the just-arrived Separatist Droid Army's fire)
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars – "The Zillo Beast" (Trapper is hit by the Zillo Beast's hand), "Death Trap" (A couple of Clone troopers are sent flying into space after the air vent opens), "Citadel Rescue" (During the space battle, a clone trooper aboard an exploding Republic vessel), "Monster" (In the ambient noise during Savage Opress's transformation).
- A stormtrooper hit by Ezra Bridger's energy slingshot emits one in Star Wars Rebels: Spark of Rebellion.
- Jump troopers sometimes emit the scream when killed in Star Wars Battlefront.
Notes and referencesEdit
- WAV recording of the Wilhelm scream
- Play on browser (beta)
- A Wilhelm Scream filmography (cached version)
- Radio report about the Wilhelm scream, with transcript and audio examples of uses of the scream
- Film Sound Clichés
- 27MB MOV Video showing samples of the Wilhelm