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The Wilhelm Scream

A series of short painful screams performed by an actor were recorded in 1951 for the Warner Brother's film "Distant Drums." They were used for a scene where a man is bitten and dragged underwater by an alligator. The recording was archived into the studio's sound effects library -- and it was used in many of their films since.

"Star Wars" Sound Designer Ben Burtt tracked down the scream recording - which he named "Wilhelm" after a character who let out the same scream in the film "Charge at Feather River." Ben has adopted the scream as sort of a personal sound signature, and has included it in many of the films he has worked on. He and a small circle of sound effects people, including myself and Richard Anderson, continue the crusade to keep Wilhelm alive. The Wilhelm Scream continues to be heard in new films every year 

Here is a growing list of Wilhelm's appearances....


"Distant Drums" (1951)
1) Three Indians are shot, one after the other.
2) A man is bitten and dragged underwater by an alligator.


"Charge at Feather River" (1953)
1) Wilhelm is struck in the leg by an arrow. -------->

2) A soldier is hit with a spear.

3) An Indian is killed by a soldier with a knife and rolls down a hill.



"The Command" (1954)
An Indian is shot off his horse during an attack on the wagon convoy.


"Them!" (1954)
1) Giant ants attack the crew of a ship at sea.
2) James Whitmore is throttled to death by a giant ant.
3) A soldier is struck by falling debris in the sewer.


"A Star is Born" (1954)
1) While Judy Garland tries to find her way out of a theater during a screening, a Wilhelm is heard in the movie that is playing there (actually "Charge at Feather River.")
2) Someone screams in the rehearsal record of "Somewhere There's a Someone" that Judy Garland plays for James Mason.


"Land of the Pharaohs" (1955)
Victims are thrown to alligators.


"The Sea Chase" (1955)


"Helen of Troy" (1956)


"Sergeant Rutledge" (1960)


"PT 109" (1963)
A crew member of PT-109 screams as a Japanese destroyer smashes through the patrol boat.


"Harper" (1966)
Harper (Paul Newman) strikes Puddler (Roy Jenson) in the head with a rasp.


"The Green Berets" (1968)
Enemy soldiers are thrown into the air by an exploding grenade. "That's what it's all about, Mr. Beckworth!"


"The Wild Bunch" (1969)


"Chisum" (1970)


"Impasse" (1970)
1) Morrison (Burt Reynolds) and a thug fall to the bottom of some stairs during a fight in a warehouse.
2) A moment later, Morrison and another thug come crashing down from a balcony.


"The Scarlet Blade" (1974)


"Hollywood Boulevard" (1976)


"Star Wars" (1977)
A stormtrooper falls into the chasm before Luke and Leia swing across.




"The Star Wars Holiday Special" (TV Special, US air date: 17 November 1978)
A stormtrooper falls over the edge of Chewbacca's family treehouse.


"More American Graffiti" (1979)


"The Empire Strikes Back" (1980)
1) A rebel soldier screams when his laser gun dish is hit and explodes during the Hoth battle.
2) Chewie knocks a stormtrooper off the platform of the carbon freezing chamber (barely audible).


"Raiders of the Lost Ark" (1981)
1) A Nazi soldier is thrown from the back of a truck into the windshield of a jeep.
2) Another soldier falls from the left side of the truck, ripping the canvas as he falls.


"Swamp Thing" (1982)
The Swamp Thing grabs a thug and tosses him out of his speedboat.


"Poltergeist" (1982)
Little Carol Ann watches a soldier killed in a war movie after her mom has changed the channel from just static.


"Return of the Jedi" (1983)
A victim is slashed by Luke's lightsaber falls and into the Sarlac pit.
(ALSO: Ben Burtt imitates a Wilhelm during his cameo in the film when he is knocked over a ledge by Han Solo.)


"Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" (1984)
1) While trying to get the vial of antidote, Indy crashes into the nightclub band, and a musician screams.
2) Indy shoots the driver of Lao-Chi's car.
3) Mola Ram is eaten by alligators.


"Howard the Duck" (1986)
Howard yells "Banzai!" after he knocks a duck hunter out of his boat who has just screamed a Wilhelm.


"Spaceballs" (1987)
John Candy uses a section of tubes to bounce several laser bolts back at guards, and each of them screams when they're hit - the last one lets out a Wilhelm.


"Willow" (1988)
1) Soldiers crash their carriage after chasing the heroes.
2) The Brownies manage to trigger a huge spear shooter that hits several enemy soldiers.


"The Star Trek Adventure" (Universal Studios, CA, 1988)
A crew member on the bridge of the Enterprise falls during the obligatory "bridge tilt" shot.


"Always" (1989)


"Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" (1989)
A Nazi's grenade explodes, throwing a solider down a hill.


"Legion of Iron" (1990)


"Gremlins 2" (1990)
A victim covered with gremlins falls off a ledge.


"Beauty and the Beast" (1991)
Just after Chip says "You guys gotta try this thing!" someone screams on an exterior shot of the castle during the battle.


"Mom and Dad Save the World" (1992)


"Batman Returns" (1992)
Batman punches a clown and throws him out of his way.


"Aladdin" (1992)
Villagers flee in terror as the Genie (controlled by Jafar) lifts the palace into the air.


"Reservoir Dogs" (1992)
1) Mr. Brown (Quentin Tarantino) is shot in his car.
2) Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi) pushes someone out of his way while while running down the sidewalk.


"Matinee" (1992)
A couple Wilhelms can be heard in the movie within the movie, "MANT!"


"Evening Class" (1993)


"A Goofy Movie" (1995)
During the song "On the Open Road," Goofy's car strikes a construction scaffold.


"Toy Story" (1995)
Buzz Lightyear is knocked out the bedroom window.


"Die Hard: With a Vengeance" (1995)
John McClane (Bruce Willis), while driving through Central Park (literally), almost hits a mime - before confessing that "maybe" he was aiming for him.


"Dante's Peak" (1996)
Paul plunges to his death from a collapsed bridge as it's carried away by mud and lava.


"Hercules" (1997)
Villagers flee in terror as their city is attacked.


"The Second Civil War" (Made for Cable, 1997)
A News Net crew watches a John Wayne movie on a big screen TV while waiting for action at the Idaho border.


"The Fifth Element" (1997)


"Titanic" (1997)
When the engine room of the doomed ship is flooding, a crew member screams when a jet of water hits him.


"Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (Special Edition)" (1997)
A stormtrooper is thrown off a bridge on Coruscant during the final celebration.


"Lethal Weapon 4" (1998)
A gunshot turns a terrorist's flamethrower into a jetpack, and he screams as he flies towards a gas truck - which explodes upon impact.


"Small Soldiers" (1998)
When the action figures are "killed" throughout the film, a Wilhelm can usually be heard.


"Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace" (1999)
Two security officers, one after the other, are hit in the chest and scream Wilhelms during the blaster battle in the Naboo hangar.


"The X-Files" Episode #7X19, "Brand X" (TV, first US air date: 16 April 2000)
A man is killed with a bayonet in an old war movie on TV.


"Little Mermaid II" (Direct-to-video, 2000)
A crew member jumps from his ship and screams just before part of an iceberg falls on it.


"Thirteen Days" (2000)
When an American jet screams over a Russian ship and the deck crew all react and duck, a Wilhelm is heard (just barely).


"The Kid" (2000)
While Russ is talking to Amy, someone screams on TV in a movie that Rusty is watching.


"Golden Dreams" (Disney's California Adventure, 2001)
During an earthquake, a native American screams as he falls to the ground.


"Just Visiting" (2001)
A knight is hit in the face with an axe.


"Tomcats" (2001)
Near the end of the film, a cello player at a charity fundraiser screams when Michael (Jerry O'Connell) collides with him.


"Osmosis Jones" (2001)
Thrax throws someone out of their car.


"Planet of the Apes" (2001)
1) Tival (Erick Avari) is body-slammed to the ground by an ape soldier.
2) General Thade (Tim Roth) hurls two humans into the air at once.
3) Using the sharp point of his helmet, Thade stabs a human.


"The Majestic" (2001)
Someone screams when part of the theater's neon sign explodes.


"Star Trek: The Motion Picture - The Director's Edition" (2001)
When V'ger fires at the Enterprise, a crew member in the engine room gets hit by an energy bolt.


"Wet Hot American Summer" (2001)


"Life or Something Like It" (2002)


"The Salton Sea" (2002)
Kujo (Adam Goldberg) is hit by a bus.


"Spider-man" (2002)


"Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones" (2002)
A ship explodes when it arrives at Coruscant at the beginning of the film.


"Scorched" (2002)
Shmally crashes her motorcycle in the desert, and Doleman screams as he falls off.


"The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" (2002)
A soldier falls during the Helm's Deep battle.


"Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" (2002)
Chuck watches TV (and hears a Wilhelm there) after returning home from a barfight.


"Robbery Homicide Division" Episode #13, "Absolute Perfection" (TV, 2003)
Tommy Cheung is squashed by a bus in the episode’s teaser.


"I Am David" (2003)


"Cradle 2 the Grave" (2003)


"Agent Cody Banks" (2003)
A guard falls off a balcony and through a glass ceiling.


"Tears of the Sun" (2003)
Two Wilhelms can be heard in the film when rebel soldiers are blown up in separate scenes.


"A Man Apart" (2003)
In a raid by DEA and Mexican drug agents on a Tijuana nightclub full of drunken cartel honchos and gunmen, a Wilhelm is heard when one of the agents is hit by gunfire.


"Texas: The Big Picture" (IMAX, 2003)


"Dell Computers - PC Dreams" TV Commercial (May 2003)
One of the Dell Interns is repeatedly dropped through a trap door during a dream about how Dell computers are tested.


"The Animatrix: Matriculated" (2003)


Compiled by Steve Lee
Updated 2 June 2003


To hear a low resolution WAV file of the Wilhelm Scream, click here.

Very special thanks to Ben Burtt, Richard Anderson, Rick Mitchell, Gary Rydstrom, Curt Schulkey, Chris Boyes, David Whittaker, and everyone else who has helped compile this list.

Original URL:  



Ben Burtt:
"I tracked down an old movie scream I loved as a kid. I call it a 'Wilhelm' after a character in an old western who got an arrow in his leg and let out that scream. Every time someone died in a Warner Brothers movie, they'd scream this famous scream. That scream gets in every picture I do as a personal signature. In Star Wars, the stormtrooper who pitches off the Death Star screams that scream. In Empire, a Wilhelm was screamed during the Hoth battle."
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