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The history of the most famous movie scream ever: Wilhelm

Posted Monday, October 20, 2008 at 3:11 PM Central

by Tim Briscoe

Many will say you can't have a horror movie without the requisite scream of a woman. But what about a man's scream?

For instances where a male scream is necessary, many audio engineers in film use a common sound file that dates back to 1951. The scream has become known as the Wilhelm Scream. It's become something on an inside joke for sound editors and film enthusiasts.

The scream has been used most notably by Ben Burtt in all the Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies. Since then, it has been used hundreds of times, even in animation.

Hollywood Lost and Found's Steve Lee is both an audio technician and movie lover. You can see (and hear, of course) his explanation of the Wilhelm Scream phenomenon in the video below from Showtime's Masters of Horror series:

It's one of those little Easter Eggs that are fun to find in movies, kind of like Hitchcock's cameos. Despite what Joe Dante says, I think people will continue to use the scream and we'll all like hearing it.

Finally, as a bonus, here is a collection of various Wilhelm Screams in movie history: