The Wilhelm scream is a film and television stock sound effect that has been used in more than 200 movies, beginning in 1951 for the film Distant Drums. The scream is often used when someone is shot, falls from a great height, or is thrown from an explosion.
Most likely voiced by actor and singer Sheb Wooley, the sound is named after Private Wilhelm, a character in The Charge at Feather River, a 1953 western in which the character is shot with an arrow. This was its first use from the Warner Bros. stock sound library, although The Charge at Feather River is believed to have been the third movie to use the effect.
The effect gained new popularity (its use often becoming an in-joke) after it was used in Star Wars, the Indiana Jones series, Disney cartoons and many other blockbuster films as well as television programs and video games.
The Wilhelm scream originates from a series of sound effects recorded for the 1951 movie 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 screamed." 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, 5, and 6 are the most recognizable, all of the screams are referred to as "Wilhelm", by those in the sound community.
a (pretty) complete collection of the films that The Wilhelm Scream has been in