But not everything coming to theaters in the next month or so has such lofty ambitions. There still are plenty of popcorn flicks, horror movies and goofy comedies to satisfy divergent tastes.
So here are 42 titles expected to hit theaters from now through January, as well as major Oscar bait that won't arrive in Utah until February. (Release dates are tentative.)
"Anna Karenina" • "Atonement" director Joe Wright and star Keira Knightley reunite for this grandly theatrical adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's classic novel of a torrid affair in St. Petersburg's high society.
"The Collection" • In this horror thriller, a man (Josh Stewart) escapes the clutches of a serial killer, only to be kidnapped by a victim's wealthy father to rescue his daughter (Emma Fitzpatrick) from the same killer.
"Killing Them Softly" • Brad Pitt plays a mob "enforcer" investigating a heist at a mob-protected poker game in director Andrew Dominik's adaptation of a George V. Higgins novel.
"Somewhere Between" • Four U.S. teens, all adopted from China due to complications of China's "One Child" policy, are profiled in this documentary.
"Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel" • The larger-than-life fashion editor gets the documentary treatment.
"The Loneliest Planet" • An engaged couple (Gael García Bernal, Hani Furstenburg) go backpacking in the Caucasus mountains, where one misstep changes everything in their relationship.
"Playing for Keeps" • Gerard Butler plays an ex-jock who starts coaching his son's soccer team and meets some lovely soccer moms (Jessica Biel, Uma Thurman, Catherine Zeta-Jones).
"Waiting for Lightning" • Skateboarder Danny Way's effort to jump over the Great Wall of China is depicted in this documentary.
"The Flat" • Israeli filmmaker Arnon Goldfinger cleans out the apartment belonging to his late grandparents immigrants from Nazi Germany and discovers clues to a complex and shocking story.
"Hitchcock" • Anthony Hopkins has a ball portraying the legendary director when he risks his career on his next movie: "Psycho." Helen Mirren plays Hitchcock's wife, Alma; Scarlett Johansson portrays Janet Leigh.
"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" • Director Peter Jackson returns to Middle-earth with the first of a three-part prequel to "The Lord of the Rings."
"Holy Motors" • A shadowy character takes on many roles in Leos Carax's surreal drama, which made quite a splash at Cannes this year.
"The Guilt Trip" • A comedy about an inventor (Seth Rogen) who goes on a road trip to sell his latest creation with his mother (Barbra Streisand) along for the ride.
"Monsters Inc. 3D" • Pixar's 2001 adventure of monsters scaring kids to power their world returns in a 3-D conversion ahead of next summer's prequel, "Monsters University."
"Any Day Now" • A gay couple (Alan Cumming, Garrett Dillahunt) in the '70s fight for custody of the abandoned teen with Down syndrome who comes to live with them.
"Cirque Du Soleil: Worlds Away 3D" • The theatrical circus troupe combines elements from its Vegas stage shows to tell the story of lovers searching for each other across time and space, with help of director Andrew Adamson ("Shrek") and producer James Cameron ("Avatar").
"Jack Reacher" • Author Lee Child's creation, a tough military-police investigator, hits the screen portrayed by Tom Cruise.
"The Other Son" • Two young men, one Israeli and the other Palestinian, discover they were switched at birth in this French-made drama.
"This Is 40" • The married couple from "Knocked Up," Pete and Debbie (Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann), take center stage in director Judd Apatow's look at turning the big four-oh.
"Django Unchained" • Quentin Tarantino takes on the Western with this action tale of an ex-slave (Jamie Foxx) seeking to free his beloved (Kerry Washington) from a nasty plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio).
"Les Misérables" • Director Tom Hooper ("The King's Speech") adapts the musical version of Victor Hugo's novel set amid the Paris uprising of 1832, of the ex-convict Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) and his pursuer, Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe). The cast includes Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen.
"Parental Guidance" • Billy Crystal and Bette Midler play a couple assigned by their daughter (Marisa Tomei) to watch the grandkids and to adjust to the children's overscheduled lives.
"Simon & the Oaks" • This Swedish drama follows the lives of two boys, one of them Jewish, who meet in school in 1939.
"The House I Live In" • Eugene Jarecki's Sundance-winning documentary, a personal and detailed look at the failures of 40 years of America's war on drugs.
"Hyde Park on Hudson" • Bill Murray plays Franklin Roosevelt, playing host to King George VI (Samuel West) and Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Colman) in 1939 while engaging in an affair with a distant cousin (Laura Linney).
"Texas Chainsaw 3D" • A young woman discovers her inheritance includes a secret in this revisit to the horror franchise.
"Barbara" • A drama set in East Germany in the 1980s, as a Berlin doctor (Nina Hoss) is banished to a rural town.
"Brooklyn Castle" • A Brooklyn middle-school chess team achieves national prominence, while the school battles budget problems, in this documentary.
"Gangster Squad" • Ryan Gosling and Josh Brolin lead a '50s anti-mobster unit out to get Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) in this stylish cop drama, which was delayed and retooled after the Aurora, Colo., theater shooting this July.
"Zero Dark Thirty" • Director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal (who collaborated on "The Hurt Locker") detail the efforts of U.S. intelligence to find and kill Osama Bin Laden.
"Broken City" • Mark Wahlberg plays an ex-cop tailing the mayor's ex-wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and uncovering a scandal. Russell Crowe plays the mayor.
"The Impossible" • A vacationing family is separated by the 2004 tsunami in this survival tale starring Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts.
"The Last Stand" • Arnold Schwarzenegger returns to leading-man status as an Arizona sheriff who must stop an escaped drug cartel leader from getting to the Mexican border.
"Mama" • A couple (Jessica Chastain, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) must raise two nieces, found in the woods after five years alone, in this horror thriller.
"Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters" • Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton star in this action-packed movie, which imagines the gingerbread-eating siblings as paranormal-seeking killers.
"Movie 43" • A raunchy anthology comedy with 12 directors and a slew of stars (Emma Stone, Elizabeth Banks, Kristen Bell, Naomi Watts, Hugh Jackman and more).
"Parker" • Jason Statham plays an ethical thief who is betrayed by his crew, so he partners with Jennifer Lopez to take revenge, in this thriller based on Donald E. Westlake's books.
"Amour" • Director Michael Haneke's Palme D'Or-winning drama about a couple in their 80s (Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emmanuelle Riva) and a tragedy that strikes at the heart of their marriage.
"On The Road" • Director Walter Salles ("The Motorcycle Diaries") adapts Jack Kerouac's classic novel of two guys (Garrett Hedlund, Sam Riley) and a girl (Kristen Stewart) traveling across America.
"Rust and Bone" • A drama in which a Belgian man (Matthias Schoenaerts) relocates to Antibes and falls for a killer-whale trainer (Marion Cotillard) who suffers a horrific accident.
"Tabu" • A love story in two parts the first set in contemporary Portugal, the second flashing back to colonial Africa in the 1960s.
"West of Memphis" • A hard-hitting documentary uncovers evidence in the killing of three boys in an Arkansas town and the three teens wrongfully put on Death Row in the case.