The Wilhelm Scream

Was watching an incredibly bad action flick the other night when my pal Denis commented “Why don’t Eastern European terrorists ever make that ‘Ayeeeeee’ scream when they die? You know… the Arabic terrorist scream?”.

And the sad thing is I knew exactly what he was talking about. Though it’s also been the dying shriek of Nazis, Storm Troopers, Indian cult leaders, Vampires, Buzz Lightyear and several passengers aboard the Titanic.

It’s called the Wilhelm Scream, and it friggin rocks.

It was originally recorded for a movie called ‘Distant Drums’ almost 60 years ago, a series of shrill screams that were subsequently re-used several times throughout various 50’s flicks. But it wasn’t until film Sound Designer Extraordinaire Ben Burtt re-discovered the scream on a reel labeled “Man being eaten by alligator” and threw it into the original ‘Star Wars’ (as the sound of a Storm Trooper falling off a ledge) that the Cult of Wilhelm was born.

Burtt has subsequently used the scream in almost every film he’s worked on since for Spielberg or Lucas, and if you pay attention you’ll catch it in practically every action film made during the last 25 years, including…

  • The ‘Indiana Jones’ trilogy
  • The ‘Star Wars’ prequels
  • ‘Batman Returns’
  • ‘Planet of the Apes’
  • The ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy
  • ‘Kill Bill Vol.1’
  • The ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ trilogy
  • ‘King Kong’
  • ‘Sin City’
  • ‘Transformers’
  • ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’
  • ‘Watchmen’
  • and ‘Norbit’ (no, seriously, it’s in there).

Die and scream 'Ayeeee', you Thuggee bastards...

For a detailed list of the films and television shows to have used the Wilhelm Scream, check out this link.

Legend has it that the scream itself was actually the voice of a character actor named Sheb Wooley, who starred in ‘Distant Drums’ and also sang the 50’s craptacular novelty song ‘Purple People Eater’.

Probably unavailable on iTunes

Truth truly is stranger than fiction…




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