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The Wilhelm Scream: Hollywood’s Favorite Stock Sound Effect

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1427219-wilhelm_screamFor 33 years or so, my brain has thought of Star Wars when hearing a particular sound effect which I’ve now learned is called the Wilhelm Scream. But that’s just the start of its use. Here it is.


I remember it particularly from A New Hope when Luke shoots a Stormtrooper in the Death Star and he falls into a chasm and in Return of the Jedi when a hooligan from Jabba’s barge falls into the Sarlacc Pit. Then I started hearing it elsewhere just recently. I mean really hearing it. Like, hey, I know that scream. Most recently I heard it used in the final episode of Netflix’s Sense8.


Here’s a montage of the stock sound, from the first uses of it in The Charge at Feather River to Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. In fact, it appears that George Lucas should be credited for it even becoming a thing. His repeated use of it becomes a running joke over the course of his films. I suspect its use in a film like Reservoir Dogs is due to Tarantino’s love for referencing other filmmakers, just as Lucas was likely showing his own love for a previous generation’s filmmakers in his use of it.



Author: Erin Perry

I'm a high school English teacher specializing in AP Literature and Film Analysis. I'm interested in most things geeky, including superheroes, vampires, zombies, teen culture, postmodern philosophy, pop culture analysis, and combinations of the aforementioned. Follow me on Twitter @eriuperry.

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