Making a Christmas wish list never gets old, but unlike my kids, who fill theirs with an obscene number of toys, mine consists of movies I’d like to see this holiday season. Studios generally save their best, most Oscar-worthy flicks for this time of year, meaning you can gorge yourself on any number of high-caliber films (while simultaneously gorging on eggnog and cookies). Of course, since a night at the movies costs slightly less than Caribbean vacation, you may want to be discerning about which film you see. Here is a list of the most buzz-worthy films that should be on everyone’s wish list (and their chances of getting an Oscar nomination, if you’re in to that kind of stuff).


Mockingjay, Part 1
In theaters: Now

The third installment of the Hunger Games series has been garnering great reviews from critics and audiences (including hard-to-please teens). The film sees Katniss move beyond the games into the realities of war, as she’s made into a symbol of the resistance’s fight against the Capitol.

Oscar nods? Probably not many for the big awards, but surely for Best Song and some technical ones.


theoryofeverythingTheory of Everything
In theaters: Now

Whoever thought Stephen Hawking and romantic movie would ever be in the same sentence? This biopic centers on the brilliant physicist’s love story with his now ex-wife Jane Hawking while he’s studying at Cambridge in the 1960s as his loses control of his body to a motor neuron disease.

Oscar Noms? You betcha. Best picture for sure, and Eddie Redmayne looks like a definite for best actor and Felicity Jones is a frontrunner for a best actress nod.


In theaters: Now

As confusing high concept as his dreamopic InceptionInterstellar explores the possibility of space travel through a wormhole to find a more habitable planet after agriculture on Earth begins to fail. The movie stars darling-of-the-moment Matthew McConaughey and one of the most-disliked actresses of all time, Anne Hathaway.

Oscar noms? Best picture, director, and maybe an acting category or two, and a heck of a lot of tech ones.


In theaters: now

This dark comedy written anddirected by Alejandro Gonzalez boasts an all-star cast, including the return of Michael Keaton. Keaton, interestingly enough, stars as a former action hero who, 20 years later, tries to reboot his career by writing, directing, and starring in a play. The film is generating serious buzz and remains a frontrunner for the Oscars.

Oscar noms? Expect it to hit most of the major categories: Picture, director, actor (Michael Keaton), supporting actress (Emma Stone), supporting actor (Ed Norton)


In theaters: Now (limited release)


It may take you a few minutes to realize that the star of this movie is none other than Michael Scott Steve Carrell. Carrell plays real-life millionaire John du Pont (of the du Pont family in Delaware), a paranoid-schizophrenic who became obsessed with Olympic wrestling and established a training facility at his estate Foxcatcher Farm. The story follows du Pont’strange relationship with Olympian Dave Schultz, which made news when du Pont shot and killed him back in 1996.

Oscar noms? Steve Carrell’s transformation for this role is pretty incredible, and he may prove once again that getting ugly for a film gets you a statue.


In Theaters: Dec. 3

Reese Witherspoon stars in this woman vs. nature film based on the memoir by Cheryl Strayed, who traveled the Pacific Crest Trail by herself to find herself after the death of her mother and her divorce. The film is directed by Jean-Marc Vallee, who gained acclaimed after directing last year’s surprise hit Dallas Buyer’s Club.
Oscar noms? Wouldn’t be surprised to see Reese Witherspoon get best actress.


Top Five
In theaters: Dec. 5

Chris Rock stars in this rom-com, which he also wrote and directed, about a comedian, Andre Allen, who is trying to reinvent his career as a serious actor. Allen is slated to marry the biggest reality star on TV, but falls for a journalist (Rosario Dawson) while being interviewed for an article. There are a lot of great comedic actors in this film, including Jerry Seinfeld, Whoopie Goldberg, Adam Sandler and Tracy Morgan, and Rock is getting great reviews for it.

Oscar noms? Probably not, but Chris Rock could be a surprise.


imitationgameThe Imitation Game
In theaters: Now

This British historical thriller stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing, a pioneering mathematician/computer scientist who served as a crucial codebreaker during World War II. Although critical to the ally victory, Turing was later criminally prosecuted for his homosexuality after the war. A winner at the Toronto Film Festival, the movie will surely be a big player during awards season.

Oscar noms? You can probably count on best picture and director, and likely acting nominations for Cumberbatch and co-star Keira Knightly.


Inherent Vice
In theaters: Dec. 12

Based on a Thomas Pynchon crime-comedy, this Paul Thomas Anderson, as usual, stars a cluster of stars, including Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, and Reese Witherspoon. Anderson films aren’t for everyone, but this wacky private eye flick has the makings of a cult favorite.

Oscar noms? Radiohead’s Johnny Greenwood wrote the score, so look for a nomination there, and possibly screenplay. Both Phoenix (best actor) and Brolin (best supporting actor) are possibilities as well.


In theaters: Dec. 25

Anyone who’s read Laura Hillenbrand’s biography of Louis Zamperini knows that this movie is going to be insanely intense. Zamperini was a world-class runner shot down in the Pacific during World War II, surviving for weeks in the open ocean, only to be captured and held as a prisoner of war by the Japanese, who brutally torture him. With every chapter of Zamperini’s life you’re like, “It can’t get much worse than this,” and then it does, but through it all he can’t be broken (ugh, I hate myself for writing that, but it’s so true). The movie is skillfully directed by Angelina Jolie, who proved with In the Land of Blood and Honey that she can handle weighty material.

Oscar noms? This is a classic best picture nominee, and Jolie could score a director nod.



In theaters: Dec. 25

This highly anticipated movie focuses on the critical period in the Civil Rights movement, when Martin Luther King made this Alabama town a battleground for voting rights for African Americans and organized to Montgomery. Inspirational and emotional, it’s being called this year’s must-see.  Oh, and it’s produced by Oprah and Brad Pitt and it co-stars Oprah.

Oscar noms? Most definitely best picture. David Oyelowo (Dr. King) for best actor and Ava DuVernay for director, a groundbreaking feat given the category generally dominated by white men.


American Sniper

In theaters: Dec. 25

Remember when Bradley Cooper showed up at the Met Gala red carpet all beefed up? It was for this biopic directed by Clint Eastwood, based on the Chris Kyle’s memoir, known as the deadliest sniper in American history. Kyle served four tours in Iraq and became a target of insurgents, and also struggled separating his wartime persona from his home life.

Oscar noms? Two-time nominee Cooper could be a contender along with Eastwood, an Academy favorite.

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