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5 Most Popular (and Overused) Movie Sound Effects

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When people think about movies they often focus on the visual effects, or the story, or the price of the ticket. (Honest to god, some IMAX 3D movies cost upwards of $18 despite being JUST as enjoyable on VOD, or even on an Apple Watch.) But sound designers are just as crucial to a film’s success — they make movies come alive … often by using the same effects over and over and over again. Here are the audio cues you’ve heard in so many movies through the years.

The Wilhelm Scream

From a cowboy nearly being shot in the testicle to every single stormtrooper falling to his death, the Wilhelm Scream has appeared in over 225 movies, TV shows, and video games. It is the go-to sound for sound designers who love both cinematic history and men screeching in high-pitched agony.

Bullet Ricochet

This is the official, immediately recognizable sound of an all-out, frenetic shootout (that apparently takes place in a room with 400 walls and involves gunmen who keep trying to land a bank-shot).

Hawk Shriek

Every time a movie character enters the wilderness, the camera slowly pans over the forest and we hear the the shriek of a red-tailed hawk. Unless it’s night — then you hear the hooting of an owl. Then the hollowing of a wolf. Then the roar of a bear. Then the clicking of a Predator. That guy’s as good as dead.

Sword Clanging

As anyone who has seen a movie sword fight can tell you, the point is never for one character to shish-kebob his opponent, but to keep the duel going as long as possible. That’s when the overused “metal clanging” sound effect comes into play, whether on the staircase of a medieval castle, on the battlefield against the Roman Empire, or single-handedly dealing with a whole samurai army one at time to allow for a fair fight.

Tire Screech

Nothing says “movie chase sequence” like people taking a high-speed turn, preferably in a parking garage so you can really hear the tire speech echo throughout the walls. This is often accompanied by bullets ricocheting off those very walls. Followed by the clanging of swords from the gladiators chasing that car in the parking garage. Then the car finally escapes into the wilderness as a hawk shrieks overhead and the driver lets out a piercing Wilhelm scream because he didn’t realize how many forests in movies have cliffs.

Which was your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!

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