10 Ridiculously Overused Movie Sound Effects

Dumb and Dumber

Hollywood movies are large, expensive productions, and so in order to cut costs, sound editors will often lift pre-existing sound effects from a large library rather than go out into the field and record some new ones themselves. A consequence of this is that, either intentionally or by accident, the same group of popular sound effects begin to re-appear time and time again in a high number of movies, and canny audiences will eventually cotton onto that fact. Some of these sounds have become in-jokes that sound editors use to tip their hat to the audience, and others have simply been run into the ground to the point that they make us groan every time we hear them. Here are 10 ridiculously overused movie sound effects...

10. The Wilhelm Scream

We'll start with arguably the most famous movie sound effect of all, the Wilhelm Scream, which is typically used when someone is killed, usually stabbed, shot or falling from a great height. It was first used in 1951 and has appeared in over 200 films since, gaining popularity for its use in Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and countless Disney cartoons. Nowadays, it is used largely as an in-joke, and is employed by a wide variety of filmmakers and productions, from the works of Tarantino to Marvel movies like Ghost Rider 2: Spirit of Vengeance. Though it's a great sound effect, its use does typically pull me completely out of the scene it appears in, and as such it's best used on silly action movies rather than, say, a serious piece of work like The Dark Knight Rises or something. The Wilhelm Scream is easily the best-known sound effect on this list, so watch out for it the next time you go see a light-hearted adventure movie!
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Frequently sleep-deprived film addict and video game obsessive who spends more time than is healthy in darkened London screening rooms. Follow his twitter on @ShaunMunroFilm or e-mail him at shaneo632 [at] gmail.com.