Historical drama "12 Years a Slave" and crime caper "American Hustle" won most nominations for the Golden Globes with seven nods each on Thursday, as Hollywood's awards season heats up, AFP reports.
In one of the most crowded fields for years, the black and white road movie "Nebraska" was next in line with five nominations for the Globes, to be handed out on January 12 ahead of the season-climaxing Oscars.
Both frontrunner movies garnered nods for their main actors, including Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lupita Nyong'o and Michael Fassbender for "12 Years a Slave," and Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence for "American Hustle."
The quality of films in the race this year has astonished industry watchers, with the Globes setting the stage for the Academy Award nominations on January 16, and Tinseltown's top awards show itself on March 2.
"It's a great year for films and you never know what to expect in terms of awards," David O Russell, director of "American Hustle," told Variety, calling the nominations "humbling."
Somali piracy movie "Captain Phillips" starring Tom Hanks, and "Gravity," with Sandra Bullock as an astronaut abandoned in space with George Clooney, won four nods apiece.
Other stars nominated include veterans actors Meryl Streep -- for "August: Osage County" -- and Leonardo DiCaprio for "The Wolf of Wall Street."
But there was a snub for "Lee Daniels' The Butler," another historical epic that had been widely tipped for honors for Oprah Winfrey, while on the small screen "Homeland" and "Mad Men" also went home empty handed.
Nominees for best motion picture drama, revealed in a pre-dawn announcement in Beverly Hills, were "12 Years a Slave," "Captain Phillips," "Gravity," "Philomena" and "Rush."
Best drama actor nods went to Ejiofor for "12 Years A Slave," Idris Elba for "Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom," Hanks for "Captain Phillips," Matthew McConaughey for "Dallas Buyers Club" and Robert Redford for "All Is Lost."
Three Britons were among best drama actress nominees: Judi Dench for "Philomena," Emma Thompson for "Saving Mr. Banks" and Kate Winslet for "Labor Day," as well as Australia's Cate Blanchett in Woody Allen's latest film "Blue Jasmine," and Bullock for "Gravity."
"Hooray, we can do another red carpet and have a couple of martinis!" Winslet told the Hollywood Reporter, reacting to her nomination.
Nominees for best musical or comedy film were "American Hustle," "Her," "Inside Llewyn Davis," "Nebraska" and "The Wolf of Wall Street."
On the foreign film front, sexually explicit Cannes-winning French movie "Blue is the Warmest Color" is up against Iran's "The Past," Italy's "The Great Beauty," Denmark's "The Hunt" and animated Japanese film "The Wind Rises."
Best director nominees were Alfonso Cuaron for "Gravity," Russell for "American Hustle," Martin Scorsese for "The Wolf of Wall Street," Paul Greengrass for "Captain Phillips" and Steve McQueen for "12 Years a Slave."
The latter film, about a free man sold into slavery in 19th century America, had already got an early boost on the eve of the Globe nominations, topping the Screen Actors Guild (SAGs) nods Wednesday with four.
"It's been an incredible kind of time," its star Ejiofor said after Thursday's Globe announcements. "I just couldn't be more happy with the way the film has been received, and the way people are sort of coming to it."
On the small screen, nominations for best TV drama went to "Breaking Bad," which appeared to be the frontrunner, as well as to "Downton Abbey," "The Good Wife," "House of Cards" and "Masters of Sex."
Variety's awards editor Tim Gray said the nominations by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), which organizes the Globes, don't necessarily reflect what will be chosen for the Oscars by members of the vastly more prestigious Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
But the quality of movie contenders this year means they could have a hard time whittling down their shortlists.
"This is easily the best year I've seen," Gray, who has worked at the industry journal since 1981, told AFP.
"Usually there are three or four films that are certain to be nominated for best picture, and then you guess what films will fill the other slots.
"This year, there are at least 15 films that deserve a best picture nomination."