THE IMITATION GAME
Benedict Cumberbatch is a certain Best Actor candidate for his role as Alan Turing, the man who helped win World War II by cracking the Germans’ Enigma machine.
Reese Witherspoon produced and stars in this adaptation of the Cheryl Strayed memoir about climbing your way to enlightenment. Her gutsy, earthy performance is a far cry from Tracy Flick or Elle Woods.
Julianne Moore is spectacular as a university professor who is slowly succumbing to the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease.
Director Paul Thomas Anderson returns to the ’70s (à la Boogie Nights) with this drug-fueled detective story based on a Thomas Pynchon novel and starring Joaquin Phoenix.
Mark Wahlberg lost 60 lb. to star in director Rupert Wyatt’s drama about a literary professor with a gambling addiction.
Veteran character actor Timothy Spall delivers a raucous performance as grumpy British painter J.M.W. Turner in Mike Leigh’s biopic.
In this acclaimed Turkish drama–the country’s official entry into the Best Foreign Picture category–a brother and sister are snowed in by an Anatolian blizzard. Unable to leave their cabin, family tensions flare.
TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT
Belgium’s Oscar submission stars Marion Cotillard as a woman who must persuade her struggling co-workers to give up extra pay so that she can keep her job after suffering a nervous breakdown.
Angelina Jolie makes a huge leap forward as a director in this true-life story of Louis Zamperini (Jack O’Connell), an Olympian and World War II vet who survived the crash of his B-24 bomber, 47 days adrift at sea and two years in Japanese POW camps.
Directed by Clint Eastwood, Bradley Cooper is at his best as Chris Kyle, the Navy SEAL with 160 confirmed kills but a conflicted family life that suffers as his taste for combat in Iraq becomes insatiable.
INTO THE WOODS
Rob Marshall’s adaptation of the Broadway smash stars Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, Johnny Depp and Anna Kendrick in a mashup of the most-beloved fairy tales.
An epic depiction of the civil rights march on the Alabama city, the film stars relative newcomer David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King Jr., Tim Roth as George Wallace and Tom Wilkinson as LBJ.
A MOST VIOLENT YEAR
Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac star in this gripping New York crime drama set in the 1980s.
Russia’s entry in the Best Foreign Film Oscar race focuses on small-town politics and one family’s fight against a corrupt mayor trying to steal their land.
This appears in the December 01, 2014 issue of TIME.