Admittedly, December isn't exactly a hotbed for independent film exhibition. Studios break out their best and brightest (or at least what they hope is their best and brightest) in what's typically an unusually high quality month for mainstream fare (just as last month -- which saw "Lincoln," "Flight" and "Skyfall" released to great reviews and great box office).  Par example: Kathryn Bigelow's "Zero Dark Thirty," Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained" (technically released by independent distributor Weinstein Company, but its budget and wide release didn't make it feel right to include here), Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," Tom Hooper's "Les Miserables," etc.

But there are a few brave and exceptional films that are going to weather the December storm against Hollywood's big guns, and they deserve your attention as much as their bigger budgeted counterparts (though do go see "Zero Dark Thirty," too). So as an extension of our fall movie preview, Indiewire is offering the third of four monthly fall "must-see" lists to help with your cinematic decision-making over the next 31 days.

From Michael Haneke and Gus Van Sant to KStew and the West Memphis Three, check out Indiewire's picks for December's 7 best options, and then head over to the full December calendar, as there are many worthy films (including studio offerings) that didn't end up making this list.

1. Amour (December 19)

Director: Michael Haneke
Cast: Emmanuelle Riva, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Isabelle Huppert
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Current Criticwire average: A- (see all grades)

Why Is It a "Must Sees"? Michael Haneke's remarkable, Palme d'Or winning "Amour" comes to American theaters this December. Focusing on an elderly couple (played by Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant in two of the year's greatest performances) who are coping with a stroke that paralyses Riva's character's body, this love-story-by-way of-Haneke (which sounds scarier than it is) will hopefully get some deserved recognition from awards season.

Check out the trailer below: