The sound of snakes in Indiana Jones was made by a guy sticking his fingers in a casserole.
The funny thing is, though you may not have heard of this "guy" you've definitely heard him. His name is Ben Burtt, and he is responsible for some of the most iconic sound effects in film history. And yes, to create the sound of thousands of snakes slithering, Burtt stuck his fingers in a cheese casserole. He then altered this effect a bit with the sound of wet sponges on the rubber of a skateboard. The giant boulder rolling toward Indy? That's actually Burtt's Honda Civic rolling down his gravel driveway! And the Ark of the Covenant being opened? That's the lid of his toilet tank being lifted!
(More crazy Indiana Jones trivia!)
Though his achievements in Indiana Jones are notable, Ben Burtt is most famous for his work in the Star Wars franchise. He is responsible for many of the beloved sounds from that franchise, including the voices of the droids, Darth Vader's heavy breathing, and the hum of a lightsaber! You can learn how those effects and several others were made here. After 28 years with Lucasfilm, Burtt joined Pixar in May 2005. He made an instant impact there as well - Burtt is credited as the "voice" of Wall-E!
We enjoy all of these effects, but our personal favorite has to be the "Wilhelm Scream," a sound Burtt gleaned from the 1953 Western The Charge at Feather River. Burtt used the effect in most of his films, typically whenever a person is shot or falls from a great height (or both!). Many other sound designers picked up on the effect and it soon became an industry cliché used in hundreds of films and television programs, even during the Battle of Helm's Deep in 2002's Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers!
Here is a compilation of several examples of the Wilhelm Scream. You'll wonder why you never thought this effect sounded absolutely ridiculous before.
And now you'll always notice it in movies. You're welcome.