Saving Private Ryan: The Use of Sound

According to Goodykoontz and Jocobs (2014), there are three basic categories of sounds, dialogue, sounds effects, and music. Dialogue is essentially characters of a film talking, sound effects are real-world sounds used in a movie to draw the audience in, and music can be either actual music playing or a score of musical notes in the background (sec. 8.4).

In the movie Saving Private Ryan, each of these categories are being used to establish a wartime theme. Focusing specifically on Omaha Beach landing scene, there is mostly just dialogue and special effects until right when the initial assault is near completion, at which point music presents itself as we are shown all of the dead bodies. The use of realistic sounds, and using music mostly during transitions, helped to establish a realistic theme and allowed the audience to focus on the overwhelming barrage of sound effects and dialogue that presents itself in during war. Focusing again on the initial beach landing, the use of sound was used to set the mood and leave the audience with a sense of uncertainty. For instance, one moment all you hear is waves breaking on the shore, then it cuts to a landing vehicle full of people, but the only thing you can hear is the roaring engines and water rushing by, but everyone is silent. The silence is broken by people vomiting then the driver announcing they are about to land and Tom Hanks shouting out last second preparations and tips to help everyone make it through; this progression of sounds leads the audience into a sense of nervousness.

These first few minutes of artillery and machinegun fire whizzing by, artillery blowing up, people shouting out orders, and even the metallic ding of someone getting shot in the helmet, this movie might immediately be assumed to fall into the epic film genre.

The effect of using realistic sounds, specifically in regards to special effects and dialogue, varied depending on who the individual viewer was. According to a The Inquirer news article (1998), there were some veterans of the war who had difficult time even viewing the movie and caused “one hell of a tightening in my chest, and I couldn’t breathe and I shed a lot of tears“(McCrary). For others it was merely an immersive film experience.

If one of the elements was removed, such as the sound effects, there would have been little to no reaction to actions of the characters in comparison to with sound effects. Also the dialogue helps to establish character development and the sense of urgency in everything they did.


MovieclipsPROMO. (2011). Saving Private Ryan #1 Movie CLIP – See You On The Beach (1998) HD. Retrieved from

Goodykoontz, B., & Jacobs, C. P. (2014). Film: From watching to seeing (2nd ed.). San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc. This text is a Constellation™ course digital materials (CDM) title

McCrary, L. (1998). Watching `Private Ryan,’ Veterans Relive The Horrors Years From Omaha Beach, Pain Lingers. The Inquirer. Retrieved from


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I locate, I close with. I Joined the Marines in 2005... Currently, doing all kinds of fun things. I enjoy long walks on the beach, candle lit dinners, bacon and guns. Proud husband and father.

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