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  • Writer's pictureVanessa Threadgold

The top 12 unforgettable sound design moments in history

Sound design is a creative and powerful tool in the world of cinema and plays such an important part in a film's success. With this in mind, we have assembled a list of the top movies with unforgettable sound design.


Dinosaurs - particularly the T-REX (Jurassic Park)

STOP! Do yourself a favour and don’t look into the raptor sounds unless you want to ruin your childhood (it’s tortoises mating - yes, you read that correctly).

Let's focus on the most famous of the Dino Sounds THE T-REX.

This iconic sound was created with a recording of a Jack Russell dog chewing on a chew toy and a mixture of animal roars like a Baby Elephant/an Alligator’s gurgling and a tiger’s snarl all layered and slowed down in post-production.

You can find out more with these in-depth interviews with Gary Rydstrom:


Lightsabers (Star Wars) The ORIGINAL SOUND

This Sound FX was caught by chance when the Sound designer was walking by a television set, holding a microphone that hadn’t been turned off and combined with the humming projector motors, resulting in a form of the doppler effect.

“The broken microphone cable that caused my recorder to accidentally pick up the buzz from the back of my TV picture tube” - Ben Burtt

As the films have evolved, so has the sound! The more modern movie sound was created by the CO2 cartridges from life vests you get on aeroplanes. The PPSSSHHHTTTT was then edited in post to create a new and improved Lightsaber effect.

You can find out more about the brains behind the sound design in Star Wars with Ben Burtt here:


Wolverine Claws (X-Men)

This is a double layer effect. You’ve got a knife being drawn from a sheath coupled with the sound of a chicken/turkey carcass being torn apart. sat down with Craig Berkey and Stephen Flick to find out what was involved in making the comic books sound real.

"The main part was making these sounds visceral and real—not comic book-like or magical...For the claw sound, essentially there were two main elements I was working on. One was the metallic blade sound, as it goes in or out. The other was the actual physical sound of something going through flesh and retracting." says Berkey.


Boulder chase (Indiana Jones)

Due to the boulder on set being made of fibreglass (so wouldn't have made the sound they needed) they discovered the perfect accompanying sound when cruising over the driveway leading up to the set!

A Honda Civic driving over a gravel path with large and small rocks crunching beneath the wheels was the perfect sound.

Listen to Ben Burtt explain the techniques used to achieve the iconic sounds in Indiana Jones:


Godzillas Roar (Godzilla) (1954)

When discussing the original Godzilla sound design Erik Aadahl explained:

“It was actually a double bass, using a leather glove coated in pine-tar resin to create friction. They'd rub it against the string of the double bass to create that sound.”

To perfect the Godzilla roar in the modern film version, they used the Rolling Stones Tour rig and blasted the roar so they could record what the creature would sound like out in the real world and record realistic city echoes!

“Once we had those sounds and manipulated them, we took them out to Warner Brothers backlot and actually brought in the Rolling Stones Tour rig, a 100,000-watt speaker array,” Aadahl says, “which is about the width of the whole street, ten to twelve feet high, and we pumped out all the creatures sounds in the movie into the back lot.” - Erik Aadahl

They recorded the sound by placing microphones in the backlot, on rooftops, in shops and inside cars to get realistic city echoes that would match what the characters would be hearing.

Tour groups actually called to complain and people wondered what was on their doorsteps as the sound travelled up to three miles!

Read more about the Creatures language with Erik Aadahl & Ethan Van der Ryn:


Eagles (LOTR)

Most of the time when you hear the call of an eagle in a film it is actually a red-tailed hawk! This is because eagles don't tend to make ‘good’ TV sounds.

Just like the roars in Lion King - they aren't actually lions because lions don’t tend to roar, so it's a mixture of tigers and a man roaring in a studio. The Eagle doesn't have a very impressive call at all, so the call of the red-tailed hawk is the preferred call to use in most films as it cuts through far nicer in the mix than an eagles call.

Go behind the sound of these iconic films with David Farmer, Ethan Van Der Ryn, and Mike Hopkins!


Fighting effects (Mortal Kombat)


One of the most controversial games when it was released, but boy did they deliver with the sound - creating convincing disembowelment with vegetables. Who knew vegetables were good for your help and great for fighting effects?


Plane/Jet Sound (Top Gun)

It wasn't just the sound of a plane!

To create more presence on screen, they mixed the plane recordings with modified sounds of wild animals roaring to create a deeper, more powerful audio moment for the scene.


Predator Click (Predator)

The predator click was voiced by a voice artist Peter Cullen. With his throat sore from roaring for King Kong, Cullen was reluctant to go for another throat burning monster growl so instead, he went for the more minimal effect of unsettling clicks.

Read more about the approach to imagining this famous alien sound:


Alien/Monster Ear (Quiet Place)

We always love the use of vegetables but in ‘Quiet place’ they used an interesting method. We’ve got celery cracking and lettuce being twisted for the ear opening, the echolocation effect was achieved by slowing down the recording of a taser on some grapes!


The 75 Cents Sound Effect (Terminator 2: Judgment Day)

To find the perfect sound to match the visuals of the T-1000 moving through the bars of the asylum door, sound designer Gary Rydstrom didn't have to break the bank to achieve this warping, gloopy sound.

Rydstrom told Wired in a piece celebrating the history of the pioneering effects company Industrial Light & Magic:

“Turns out that if you hold a can of dog food upside down, the sound of that cylinder slowly coming out of the can is the perfect combination of mud, metal, and suction. That sound effect cost 75 cents” - Rydstrom

Looks like those cans of food in the back of the cupboard might come in handy after all…


Halo Infinite: Gyoza the Alien Pug

This has got to my favourite discovery when researching sound design.

The new alien species came from an unexpected source. It seems our doggy best friends are perfect! This cute pug turned evil with the snuffles and burps.


Most ‘famous’ sounds from history happen by accident. You never know where your next sound will come from!

Keep experimenting and try breaking down the sound into layers. What would you expect to hear?

Try it at home, what weird sounds can you find that sound exactly like something else? Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments below

Still interested in delving deeper into the minds of these Sound Designers? We suggest watching Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound.

This film reveals the hidden power of sound in cinema –and our lives.


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