8 Movies to See Before the Oscars

With the Oscars on February 26, here’s a cheat sheet of the top movies worth seeing.

We’ve got something for everyone, with 6 movies to see in theaters and 2 to watch at home.

In Theaters Now

“The Artist”
Length: 1 1/2 hours
Rated: PG-13
See it with: Your husband

A love note to 1920s silent films. But, the soundtrack includes lots of music and some onscreen noise. Silent film idol George Valentin (played Jean Dujardin, who won “Best Actor” at Cannes for the role) falls in love with ingénue Peppy Miller, but his career falters as movies begin to include sound.

Length: 2 hours
Rated: PG
See it with: Young kids (age 8+)

Scorsese does a kids’ movie! This is quest of an orphan, Hugo, who lives in a train station in 1930s Paris, to uncover the secret of a broken automaton left to him by his late father (played by eye candy Jude Law). Ben Kingsley and Sacha Baron Cohen also star in this fantasy-adventure film. See it in 3D!

“The Iron Lady” (Opens January 13)
Length: 2 hours
Rated: PG-13
See it with: Your mother

Meryl Streep transforms into the cold and calculating Margaret Thatcher, the first and only female prime minister of the U.K. and a feminist pioneer. Though she’s most famous for her tactical cleverness, the focus of the film is on her personal life as a mother and a widow.

“Young Adult”
Length: 1 1/2 hours
Rated: R
See it with: Your “young adult” daughter or son

A successful but lonely writer, Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron) hears that her high school boyfriend is getting married and returns to her hometown to steal him back and relive her glory days in this funny film, written by Chicago’s own Diablo Cody, who stole our hearts with “Juno.”

“War Horse”
Length: 2 ½ hours
Rated: PG-13
See it with: The whole family

The sincere and inspiring story of a half-Thoroughbred’s journey through World War II, with impressive visuals and cinematography. It’s directed by Steven Spielberg (prompting comparisons to “Saving Private Ryan”). Bring tissues!

“The Descendants”
Length: 2 hours
Rated: R
See it with: Your mother or your sister

Native Hawaiian islander Matt King, played by George Clooney (swoon!) finds his world falling apart when his wife lands in a coma, he learns that she has cheated on him and relatives pressure him to sell the family’s land trust. Directed by Alexander Payne, of “Sideways” fame. Bring some more tissues!

Watch at Home

“The Help”
Length: 2 ½ hours
Rated: PG-13
See it with: Your best friend or your daughter

You haven’t seen this yet?! Well, it pretty faithfully follows the book—which you’ve probably read—in bringing to life Civil Rights Era Jackson, Miss., with stellar performances from Viola Davis, Allison Janney and Emma Stone.

“Tree of Life”
Length: 2 1/2 hours
Rated: PG-13
See it with: Your weirdest friend or family member

Winner of the highest prize at the Cannes Film Festival, this art-house movie is an existential roller coaster addressing birth, death and the end of the world, through the mind of a disillusioned man (Sean Penn) coming to terms with his relationship with his father (Brad Pitt).

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