The Wilhelm scream is a film and television stock sound effect first used in 1951 for the film Distant Drums. The effect gained new popularity (its use often becoming an in-joke) after it was used in Star Wars and many other blockbuster films as well as television programs and video games. The scream is often used when someone is shot, falls from a great height, or is thrown from an explosion.
The sound is named for Private Wilhelm, a character in The Charge at Feather River, a 1953 western in which the character is shot with an arrow. This was believed to be the third movie to use the sound effect and its first use from the Warner Brothers stock sound library.
he sound effect originates from a series of sound effects recorded for the 1951 film Distant Drums. In a scene from the film, soldiers are wading through a swamp in the Everglades, and one of them is bitten and dragged underwater by an alligator. The scream for that scene was recorded later in a single take, along with five other short pained screams, which were slated as "man getting bit by an alligator, and he screams."
The fifth scream was used for the soldier in the alligator scene—but the 4th, 5th, and 6th screams recorded in the session were also used earlier in the film—when three Indians are shot during a raid on a fort. Although takes 4 through 6 are the most recognizable, all of the screams are referred to as "Wilhelm", by those in the sound community.