I've said it before, and I'll probably say it again: I kind of hate the Wilhelm Scream. It's overused, to the point that people with absolutely no knowledge of who Ben Burtt is can recognize it -- and when you hear it, it ALWAYS takes you out of the film. It's so cliche that it's cliche to mention how cliche it is.

That doesn't mean I don't respect it... Every good thing needs a few inside jokes and subtle nods to it's forefathers, which the Wilhelm Scream really is. But the way the Scream is used now-a-days isn't getting the job done. Instead, it's become "Hey, Ben... Didja hear me use your sound?! I pretty much muted EVERYTHING else so you couldn't miss it..."

I want to change that.

First, a question: What are some films / games / radio dramas that use the Wilhelm Scream in a way that's appropriate -- or, better yet, secret and subtle?

And, second, a challenge: In your next project, or the one after that, or even one specifically for this, hide the Wilhelm Scream some place, and let us find it. Instead of Where's Waldo (or Wally for those of you who aren't Americans), let's play Where's Wilhelm.

For example, At :40, I could have sworn the Scream was slipped in there.

  • I like your idea. How's it copyrighted though? I downloaded a copy from wikipedia (or it might have been freesound) but it's under a CC Licence. Plus I hear it every time someone sends me a text message, cue hilarious looks from people in public when I "scream".
    – ianjpalmer
    Mar 29, 2011 at 14:41
  • I'm not sure what you mean by copyrighted... I never said it was. Mar 29, 2011 at 17:45
  • @Dave, Pretty sure I just found one in 30 Days of Night. During the first VamP attack, the guy getting thrown off the building. Maybe Mr. Prebble can confirm this...
    – g.a.harry
    Mar 31, 2011 at 5:14

14 Answers 14


In Tron, one of the bikers in the light bike scenes that gets killed, they digitally distorted the wilhelm scream.

This can be heard in the Soundworks collection special sound panel on Tron.

I didn't notice it when I watched it in theaters, so I guess that qualifies.

  • That's funny you mention this! I noticed it when I saw it in the theater and thought it was an appropriate way to use it as opposed to a cliche usage. Mar 29, 2011 at 5:15
  • @Syndicate Well, I guess my wilhelm scream sensor is not very good :-(
    – Utopia
    Mar 29, 2011 at 6:33
  • Agreed, I chuckled when I heard it used in this one (as opposed to groaning like I usually do lately). Mar 29, 2011 at 12:24
  • Same here -- I'm tired of the Wilhelm, but the Tron Legacy one instantly became my new favorite instance of it.
    – Tyler
    Mar 29, 2011 at 23:08

I remember watching a video somewhere online with a strange looking man talking about the Wilhelm scream. He was some kind of film sound historian. Anyway, according to him, your idea was exactly what those guys were doing. For about 20 years the Wilhelm was a Hollywood inside joke. They would put it into literally everything and wait/watch to see if anyone noticed. Only in recent years have nerdlingers like us caught on to it and started to moan about it being cliché. I too rather dislike it, but probably only because I didn't come up with the idea myself...

  • it wasn't that it was put into everything, it was a select few people who actually had a copy of it and would try to sneak it into everything they worked on as a joke for each other. once it became a digital file though, it spread like wildfire...everyone had access to it some way or another. it just loses impact when EVERYONE starts doing it. lol. i'm all for clever use of it. i just miss being surprised by it like i was when i was a kid (watched a lot of star wars and speilberg back then). Mar 30, 2011 at 0:32
  • @Shaun, I don't remember it from Star Wars. Would it be an absolute heresy to admit that I haven't been able to sit down with it for a good 6 or 7 years?
    – g.a.harry
    Mar 31, 2011 at 5:12

In the animated film, Over the Hedge, it was used as an insect scream (I can't remember if it was a death scream or not). It was pitched and processed perfectly to fit that insect. I laughed my ass off, and my wife just looked at me like I was an idiot. I'm all for clever uses of the scream, it's just that it feels like too many people throw it in as is just to say they did. I've heard it in a couple of cartoons on TV lately (and sometimes multiple episodes within a series).

Needless to say, that grates on my nerves.

  • I did that in a video game about an ant... it was one of six death noises, so it didn't get too repetitive. I'm glad to see I'm not the only person that's being grated on by the overuse of the Scream. Mar 29, 2011 at 13:08
  • @Dave I remember playing the N64 game "Shadows of the Empire" and I noticed whenever one of the stormtroopers were shot and fell into a chasm they would sound the wilhelm scream. I didn't know what it was at the time but I did remember it from the original movies.
    – Utopia
    Mar 29, 2011 at 20:17
  • I liked the Wilhelm in Tron Legacy. Jun 1, 2011 at 9:58

I have a client who requests that the Wilhelm Scream be put in to each of her projects. I also designed sound for a play last year, the script for which specifically called for the Goofy Holler to be used.

  • I love the Goofy Holler. :) Does she ask for it to be blatantly obvious, or secret? Mar 29, 2011 at 18:57
  • Generally it's in a battle sequence, one of many screams. So not totally out front but not really well hidden either. Mar 29, 2011 at 20:36
  • That's awesome. You don't have a video of that play, do you? Mar 30, 2011 at 13:49
  • I'll see if there's one around. I don't have one but the theatre often documents shows. In the case of the Goofy Holler in the play, there are places where several sounds play back-to-back, with slides that tell what each sound is. That's where the Goofy Holler was called for so it's pretty blatant! (The show is called "Kid Simple" and has been produced elsewhere as well.) Mar 30, 2011 at 22:17

I actually make a point of tweeting using the hashtag #WILHELMSCREAM whenever I hear one in a film or TV show. For those of you who use Twitter, maybe we should use the #WHERESWILHELM hashtag whenever we spot one.

I have noticed a few, but these are the ones that I remember.

I have noticed that Tarantino uses it quite alot, I have heard it in both Kill Bill 1 (Crazy88's scene) and Reservoir Dogs (when Mr Pink is running from the police).

My twitter timeline, tells me I heard it in an episode of American Dad recently. I can't remember which episode it was, but the chances are it was one of the most recent ones.

  • I'll have to adopt that hashtag, or use the #whereswilhelm one. I like it a lot. Mar 30, 2011 at 13:49
  • definitly the #WHERESWILHELM tag. I love it! Mar 30, 2011 at 21:22
  • Hahaha!!! I'm gonna have to adopt #whereswilhelm as well. Sounds like it's be a good account name, strictly for posting this. Mar 30, 2011 at 21:45

I'm sitting in the ProTools 9 demo right now, and I swear to Jimmy that I heard a Willy in the episode of The Pacific they used as an example. It was pitched and mixed in with another scream, but it was definitely there.


I downloaded a free game called WARZONE and the music actually contained the Willhelm SCREAM it was hilarious


I am certain that I heard it in the Lord of the Rings, where it was pretty obvious.


Have a look at this youtube video:


and at the list of all the movies in the montage:


there's a LOT of movies with the Wilhelm!


I reckon it's become a bit cliche to hate the Wilhelm Scream. The fact is you only know about it cause your a sound nerd. And I for one like being a sound nerd. Perhaps your right that it's overused a bit, and it can (and does) take you out of the film - context obviously crucial - but it's nice for us SDs to have a little inside sound effect joke.

Your also right that it's way cooler to use it with subtlety and style. On a film project I'm working on now I've used it almost at the very beginning, but I bet not even SDs will hear/notice it, I guess it's just nice to have a wee joke like that. Main point being, it's a bit of fun.

  • That's not true, I have friends who knew about it who aren't sound nerds -- they brought it up to me when I mention I want to design sound for a living. Jun 1, 2011 at 20:35
  • That's a fantastic thought. The cliche has come so far that it's now cliche to hate the cliche for being cliche. I wonder if the very idea of something being cliche has begun to become one itself. Cliche, cliche; cliche.
    – g.a.harry
    Jun 2, 2011 at 3:06

Oh yeah, and they use it in Venture Brothers a few times.

  • Venture Bros is awesome... It feels like they pretty much glean TV Tropes to find cliches to intentionally put in their show. Jun 1, 2011 at 20:35

My dad willhelm screamed when I was born and they got it on tape.


Last week I twitted about the Wilhelm Scream being used in Chuck (S01E08 @ 33'40") in a way that recalls of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. A guy shows off his martial arts skills, stops and taunts the girl who after a slight pause shoots him in the leg.

It just works really well with the picture, the pitch goes down as the villain falls face down.


Spotted it twice this weekend! Once in Inglorious basterds and once in CSI.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.