Where strange fact and stranger fiction collide
Even if you don’t know what a Wilhelm Scream is you’ve defiantly heard it. This little sound effect has been in over two hundred movies and TV shows. Including all the Star Wars movies (And the Star Wars Holiday TV special) the Indiana Jones movie (as well as The Young Indiana Jones TV series) as well as all of Quintin Terintino movies.
It was originally used in a 1951 western called Distant Drums, when a character yelled out because he was being eaten by alligators. It was re-used in 1953 in a movie called Charge at Feather River. This time when a charter named Private Wilhelm was shot in the leg with an arrow, by a Native American warrior.. Though it was at least the third time the audio prop was used in a movie, it was the first time it was used for a named charterer hence it is called The Wilhelm Scream.
The sound effect caught the ear of Star Wars sound editor Ben Burtt, who used it when Luke shots the storm trooper and he fell of down a shaft on the Death Star. The yell has been so synonymous with Star Wars it is sometimes referred as the Star Wars Scream.
There is some debate on who did the original Wilhelm Scream but it was more than likely Sheb Wooley who is most famous for his novelty song Flying Purple People Eater. He did a lot of effects and had a contract for the studio to do voice effects when Distant Drums was filmed. His widow also said he loved to use his vocal talents for people in agony.
Among the moves it was used in is Them!, PT 109, Green Berets, Wild Bunch American Graffiti. Swamp Thing, Poltergeist, Howard the Duck, Gremlins, Beauty and the Best, Aladdin, Toy Story. The Fifth element, The Two Towers, and Titanic. It is often used in the back ground when characters are watching a movie as in Juno and A Star is Born.
Ever since Star wars sound effect technicians started adding it in their movie as an in joke and it just took off from there. It went from effect, to trope to cliché. But personally I hope it makes it into another two hundred movies.
The Wilhelm Scream.
Flying People Purple Eater.
And of course since her at DCotU we think everything is better with goats.