2. On The Road (December 21)

Director: Walter Salles
Cast:  Garrett Hedlund, Sam Riley, Kristen Stewart, Kirsten Dunst, Viggo Mortensen, Amy Adams, Steve Buscemi, Elisabeth Moss, Terrence Howard
Distributor: IFC Films
Current Criticwire average: C+ (see all grades)

Why is it a "Must See"? Walter Salles' adaptation of Jack Kerouac's classic novel -- based on his years traveling America in the 1940s -- got a somewhat mixed response when it debuted at Cannes. But its new cut is a significant improvement, and fans of the novel are surely curious to see how Salles and his impressive cast (Stewart and Hedlund are the highlights) adapt yet another seemingly adaptable novel (a major theme in 2012 film).

Watch the trailer below:

3. & 4. Only The Young and Tchoupitoulas (both December 7)

Directors: Elizabeth Mims, Jason Tippet ("Young"); Bill and Turner Ross ("Tchoupitoulas")
Distributor: Oscilloscope Laboratories
Current Criticwire average: A- for both (for "Young": see all grades here; for "Tchoupitoulas," go here)

Why are they "Must Sees"? Oscilloscope unleashes two of the year's best documentaries on the same day, and you should see them both. The former is an incredibly moving look at a trio of teenagers coming of age in a California suburb, whie the later is a visually stunning take on New Orleans nightlife. Impressive stapshots of modern day Americana both, they deserve to be seen amidst the hobbits and Djangos that hopefully down drown them out.

Watch the trailers below:

5. Promised Land (December 28)

Director: Gus Van Sant
Cast: Matt Damon, John Krasinski, Frances McDormand, Rosemarie DeWitt, Hal Holbrook
Distributor: Focus Features
Current Criticwire average: B- (see all grades)

Why is it a "Must See"? A last-minute addition to the fall schedule, Focus Features is releasing Gus Van Sant's "Promised Land" at the tail end of 2012.  The Frank Capra-esque film -- scripted by and starring Matt Damon and John Krasinski -- takes on the hot topic of fracking (hydraulic fracturing) through a story of a corporate salesman (Damon), who seeks drilling rights in distressed communities, and a local man (Krasinski), who looks to oppose the sale.

Watch the trailer below: