50 Best Sci-Fi Movies of the 1970s

From cosmic head trips to adventures in galaxies far, far away

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4. 'Solaris' (1972)

Based on a novel by Polish author Stanislaw Lem, Solaris doesn’t transcend its genre so much as seriously elevate it. The defining movie of the Soviet cosmonaut era isn’t a story of heroism, collectivism, or technological innovation, but a disorienting head-trip about memory, loss, and guilt. Sent to investigate a space station in which the two remaining inhabitants have been driven mad by mysterious forces, a psychologist (the brooding Donatas Banionis) is immediately haunted by his dead ex-wife, who’s not just an apparition but a physical presence. The swirling Solarian sea is designed like a day-glo Rothko, and filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky envisions weightlessness as a foreboding, paranormal affliction — but what Solaris is really after is the ineffability of inner space. EH

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