Iconic Movie Sounds

Sound effects are vital for adding the drama, suspense and atmosphere to a movie, but they also bring a scene to life or create a desired impact. Many famous films are littered with sound effects, some of which have become star attractions in their own right. Here are some of the most iconic sounds in movies and how they were created.


Lightsaber – Star Wars

Any Star Wars fan will instantly recognise the lightsaber sound and this was largely created by accident. Sound designer Ben Burtt recorded the hum of a film projector with a buzz that was picked up from the back of an old TV set. Further sounds to represent the lightsaber’s swooshing came from moving a microphone around in front of a speaker.


The Wilhelm scream – various films

This screaming sound effect has featured in more than 360 movies, dating back to 1951. More recently, it has been used in Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Toy Story 3 and many Disney cartoons. This stock sound effect of a man screaming was recorded in one take, with six screams – the fifth of which became the famous Wilhelm shriek. It’s not entirely clear who the screamer was, although it’s rumoured to be actor and musician, Sheb Wooley.


Godzilla’s roar – Godzilla

Film creator Akira Ifukube didn’t actually use animal sounds to make Godzilla’s fearsome roar. Instead, the sound effect came from the friction of a leather glove against the strings of a double bass.

T Rex – Jurassic Park

Unlike Godzilla, real animal noises featured to make the roaring sound effects for Jurassic Park. Although actual dinosaur sounds were off the menu, noises such as an elephant’s squeal, a tiger’s snarl and an alligator gurgling were recorded at a slowed-down pace. Sound designer Gary Rydstrom even used the noise of his own dog to create the sound of a T-Rex killing its prey.


The shower scene – Psycho

This cult horror classic is famous for its shower scene, and the sound effects arguably add to the drama. To achieve this iconic sound, creator Alfred Hitchcock repeatedly stabbed at melons.

Raining frogs – Magnolia

Sound director Richard King bounced objects off frozen meat to try to emulate the sound of a downpour of amphibians. The sounds were amplified by a speaker and then recorded while driving a car to achieve the desired effect of movement.


Aliens walking – Signs

To create the sounds of aliens walking, sound director Richard King persuaded a taxidermist to lend him some goat and horse legs, which were then recorded being walked around the film set.

The acoustics of a room have a huge impact on the quality of sound, so they are a vital consideration for any recording environment. Even with the best instruments and recording equipment, if the acoustics aren’t up to scratch, you won’t achieve the desired effects you’re looking for. Sound Planning offers a variety of acoustic solutions to suit different situations and environments, so however you want to control or manage sound, we can help. Get in touch for further assistance.


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