Witherspoon in Wild. Courtesy of IFC.
Witherspoon in Wild. Courtesy of IFC.

In the past few years, we have witnessed the rise of the cinematic superheroine—from action-figure types named Katniss and Hanna to more down-to-earth wonder women portrayed by actresses like Shailene Woodley and Quvenzhané Wallis. This Oscar season is no different. In Jean-Marc Vallée’s Wild (December 5), Reese Witherspoon continues to shed her rom-com good-girl image, playing Cheryl Strayed, a promiscuous heroin addict who embarks on a treacherous 1,100-mile hike. It’s woman versus nature, and Cheryl versus herself. In the Dardenne brothers’ Two Days, One Night (December 24), Marion Cotillard is Sandra, who, after suffering a bout of depression, returns to her job in a factory to discover that her bosses have eliminated her position and offered her coworkers bonuses to pick up the slack. This is hardly dystopian fare, but the battles, nonetheless, feel larger than life.

Cotillard in Two Days, One Night. Courtesy of Fox Searchlight.