The film 12 Years a Slave took the coveted Golden Globe for best drama and American Hustle won best musical or comedy in a kick-off to the Hollywood awards season.
American Hustle, a romp through corruption in the 1970s directed by David O Russell, was the top winner, taking home three of its seven nominations for the 71st Annual Golden Globe Awards, an important but not entirely accurate barometer for the film industry's highest honours, the Academy Awards to be held on March 2.
Best film, drama:
12 Years A Slave
Best film, musical or comedy:
Best actor, drama:
Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Best actor, musical or comedy:
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street
Best actress, drama:
Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Best actress, musical or comedy:
Amy Adams, American Hustle
Best supporting actor:
Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
Best supporting actress:
Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
Best foreign language film:
The Great Beauty
Best animated feature:
Director Steve McQueen's brutal depiction of pre-Civil war slavery in 12 Years a Slave, based on a true story of a free black man sold into slavery, only won one award out of its seven nominations and was shut out from the acting honours.
The top drama acting awards went to Cate Blanchett for her turn as a riches-to-rags socialite in Woody Allen's tragicomedy Blue Jasmine and Matthew McConaughey for his unlikely AIDS activist in Dallas Buyers Club, for which he lost 50 pounds 22.7 kilogrammes.
"Ron Woodroof's story was an underdog, for years it was an underdog, we couldn't get it made ... I'm so glad it got passed on so many times or it wouldn't have come to me," said McConaughey, widely lauded for a string of strong performances this year.
His co-star Jared Leto took the best supporting actor Globe for his role as Rayon, a transsexual with AIDS.
Amy Adams won best actress in a musical or comedy for her role as the conniving partner to a con-man played by Christian Bale in American Hustle, while Jennifer Lawrence took best supporting actress for her turn as his loopy wife.
Leonardo DiCaprio won best actor in a musical or comedy for his role as a fast-living, drug-popping, swindling stockbroker in the The Wolf of Wall Street, his fifth collaboration with director Martin Scorsese.
"As the history of cinema unfolds, you will be regarded as one of the great artists of all time," DiCaprio told Scorsese as he accepted the award.
Mexican film-maker Alfonso Cuaron won best director for his existential space thriller, Gravity, a film starring Sandra Bullock as an astronaut that has won praise for its groundbreaking technical advances.
Director Spike Jonze took home the Globe for best screenplay for his quirky computer-age comedy Her, starring Joaquin Phoenix.
The Golden Globes, under the purview of some 90 journalists in the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), have outsized clout in the awards race as buzz around these first honours influences members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in their voting for the Oscars.
Oscar nominations will be announced on Thursday, but voting has already concluded.
The HFPA honoured Woody Allen with the Cecil B. DeMille award recognising outstanding contribution to the entertainment field.