This is it: the final month of the year, a.k.a. the month to shell out as much cash as you got at the theaters. December is always the best and worst movie-going time. There’s so many damn pictures hitting the screens, and it’s the time where everyone’s running around, trying to get things done before the New Year. It’s wonderful, annoying chaos.

This December is different, though. In fact, it’s going to be about 100 times more chaotic. Folks, if you plan on seeing all of the good to the “this will be up for Oscars, kid!” movies this month, plan on forking out a lot of dough. This is unquestionably the strongest month for films this year.

Without further ado, here are the ones to end the year on a great note with:

The only honorable mention: The Sitter, which I’m hoping will be as hilarious as Pineapple Express and as odd as Your Highness.

10. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (December 25th)

That trailer was so tone-deaf and abominable that it made Cameron Crowe‘s output look like it’s been through the Steve McQueen school of filmmaking. Has there been a more emotionally clingy trailer than that in recent years? Annoying piece of marketing aside, it is ultimately just that: a piece of marketing. The film itself has great promise, with a strong director, a writer behind some modern classics, and a great ensemble cast — including a highly buzzed-about Max von Sydow.

9. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (December 16th)

The first Sherlock Holmes was a slog, a slog made watchable with the help of the unrestrained charisma of Robert Downey Jr. and the subdued charm of Jude Law. They must’ve realized how thin the story was, so Guy Ritchie and the two stars decided to focus more on their endless banter. The question now is, can they make that trick work twice? It barely worked in the overlong first effort. Ritchie set up the world and style of Holmes perfectly; now all he needs is a
 good story to set in that world.

8. Carnage (December 16th)

This is about as much fun as Roman Polanski‘s The Ghost Writer, meaning a whole bunch. It’s a perfectly-paced, surprisingly cinematic, and cynical comedy about four individuals who wind up showing their true colors. I’m sure many will condescendingly label the film as “minor Polanski,” but who actually expects a comedy about parents clashing to be Chinatown? He gives exactly what the material needs, as does the cast, and it’s incredibly entertaining.

7. Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol (December 21st)

The idea of another Brad Bird movie is much more exciting than another of Ethan Hunt running for two hours. This is probably one of the most inconsistent series of the decade; the first film is a slick paranoia thriller, John Woo‘s sequel is a cartoonish bore, and the third installment works purely as a B popcorn movie that flirts with being the great fun Abrams ended up achieving with Star TrekBird, on the other hand, has a great sense of fun in all of his films, and it looks as if he’s brought that much-needed liveliness a character like Ethan Hunt deserves.

6. We Bought a Zoo (December 23rd)

Cameron Crowe wields the power to turn cold-hearted cynics into big fluffy teddy bears, and he does so with this loose adaptation. It’s the feel-great movie to see with your family at Christmas. And the thing’s for everyone, something Crowe didn’t achieve by pandering. We Bought a Zoo is full of a big heart and optimism, something that may be dismissed as “dopey.” This represents exactly what a fan wants from Cameron Crowe.

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