2010 marks a turning point in Academy Award history: the bigwigs behind Hollywood’s most fabulous awards ceremony have opened up the Best Picture category to a total of TEN contenders for the first time. The Oscars will air on March 7, 2010—so if you haven’t had a chance to check all of the nominees off your must-see movies list, here’s the lowdown on this year’s picks.

Avatar. Critics say Titanic director James Cameron’s interstellar epic is a game-changer in terms of special effects technology. If it's still in a theater nearby, it's a must-see in IMAX 3D.

Blind Side. Be sure to take your hanky to this football-themed tearjerker starring Sandra Bullock.

District 9. This dystopian tale asks tough questions about equality in a slick science fiction package.

An Education. A studious English teenage girl learns difficult lessons about the complexities of life and love from a much-older man.

The Hurt Locker. Part war epic, part edge-of-your-seat suspense thriller, The Hurt Locker has been on the receiving end of nearly universal critical acclaim.

Inglourious Basterds. Quentin Tarantino’s unique take on World War II is gritty, outrageously violent, and surprisingly elegant.

A Serious Man. The Coen Brothers dive into their most in-depth character study to date in this moving portrait of a professor facing familial upheaval.

Precious. Anything but saccharine, Precious is the harrowing but ultimately uplifting tale of the trials and tribulations that befall an abused teenage mother in inner-city New York.

Up. Pixar’s latest animated feature offers something for everyone—gorgeous graphics, plenty of gags for the kids, and surprising emotional depth that grown-up viewers will appreciate.

Up in the Air. A recession-era romance blooms among the unlikeliest of couples. Critics have called Clooney’s portrayal of a rootless consultant who orchestrates corporate layoffs the performance of a lifetime.