This time of year you're probably overwhelmed figuring out your holiday plans and making a list of everyone you need to give presents, but there's another list you probably have in mind as a movie buff: the Oscar nominations. No, the nominees won't be announced until January 10, but now is the time to start catching up on the names that will probably be read that day-- and if you're lucky enough to be in a major city, you can catch many of the likely nominees right now.

But how do you choose which ones to see? Most of them have good reviews, and there's bound to be somebody out there who will passionately tell you why anything needs to be your #1 pick for Oscar buzz. But hey, you come here for our advice the rest of the year-- why not trust us on Oscar movies? Below we've picked five Oscar hopefuls that we think are worth your time, and have made our best case for why you should make time for them. Even if none of these movies are part of the final Oscar lineup, they're worth a look-- now you can be the ones recommending some smaller stuff to your friends who want to be in the know this awards season.

Lincoln is both an indictment of the honest, altruistic hero president we’re taught about as little kids and a glowing celebration of the leader who kept the union together and ended slavery. It’s not the biopic or the sprawling civil war epic many assumed we’d get. Instead, it’s a detailed analysis of the muck and the shady gray areas Lincoln was willing to wade through in order to accomplish what he knew was the greater good of ending human bondage. It’s the most relatable and most fundamentally human we’ve ever seen Number 16, and it’s not only a good history lesson, it’s funny and highly entertaining.

Played by Daniel Day-Lewis in a performance so good it’s emerged as the frontrunner ahead of John Hawkes’ polio patient, Denzel’s addicted pilot and Hopkins’ Hitchcock, Lincoln is assured at least a nomination in the Best Actor category. Further recognition for the film itself (picture), Steven Spielberg (director), Tommy Lee Jones (supporting actor) and Sally Field (supporting actress) seem likely at this point, as well. See it to be informed while you’re watching the Academy Awards. See it to gain a new appreciation for one of our greatest leaders, and see it to have a damn good time at the movies.

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