"American Hustle" stars Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence took early prizes at the Golden Globes, while cult TV show "Breaking Bad" won honors on the small screen.
Adams won best actress and Lawrence best supporting actress for their role in the crime caper, which was among the leading contenders for top prizes at the Globes, the first major show in Hollywood's annual awards season.
Also on the big screen, Jared Leto won best supporting actor for his transgender role in the heart-wrenching AIDS activist movie "Dallas Buyers Club," based on a true story.
Going into the evening, "American Hustle" and harrowing saga "12 Years a Slave" were seen as frontrunners at the 71st annual show, the biggest awards evening before the season-climaxing Oscars in March.
But the race for glory features the strongest field in years, with other contenders including 3D space drama "Gravity," Somali piracy tale "Captain Phillips," and Scorsese's scandal epic "The Wolf of Wall Street."
Lawrence, who won an Oscar last year and stars in the global blockbuster "Hunger Games" franchise, said she hopes to do more than act.
"I would love to direct one day, but I don't want to suck. I want to keep learning," she said. Asked how she was going to celebrate, Lawrence said: "I need to catch up on my drinking."
On the small screen -- increasingly important as big-screen stars and money migrate to television -- "Breaking Bad" won for best drama series and best drama actor for Bryan Cranston, while Robin Wright won for her role on Netflix's pioneering "House of Cards."
"Behind the Candelabra," the HBO TV movie about flamboyant gay pianist Liberace starring Michael Douglas and Matt Damon, won for best mini-series or TV movie. Douglas also took home a Globe.
Comedy stars Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, hosting the show for the second year, made fun of George Clooney -- who sacrifices himself to save Sandra Bullock's life in "Gravity" -- in their opening skit.
"It's the story of how George Clooney would rather float away into space and die than spend one more minute with a woman his own age," said Fey.
Overall "12 Years a Slave" and "American Hustle" had the most nominations with seven nods each, followed by five for black and white road movie "Nebraska."
In the acting prizes, Chiwetel Ejiofor was still up for best drama actor for "12 Years a Slave," while Christian Bale was still in the running for "American Hustle."
"Captain Phillips" starring Tom Hanks in the true story of a US cargo ship attacked by Somali hijackers, and "Gravity" won four nods apiece.
In the drama race, "12 Years a Slave," based on a real story of a free black man abducted and sold into slavery in the 1840s, is up against "Captain Phillips," "Gravity," "Philomena" and "Rush."
Nominated for best drama actor are Ejiofor, Hanks, Idris Elba for "Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom," Matthew McConaughey for "Dallas Buyers Club" and Robert Redford for "All Is Lost."
A trio of British actresses are vying for the drama award -- Emma Thompson in "Saving Mr Banks," Judi Dench for "Philomena" and Kate Winslet for "Labor Day" -- along with Cate Blanchett for "Blue Jasmine" and Bullock.
The Globes have separate categories for drama and musical/comedy films. For best musical or comedy film, the shortlist is "American Hustle," "Her," "Inside Llewyn Davis," "Nebraska" and "The Wolf of Wall Street" starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
Best musical or comedy actor nominees include DiCaprio, Joaquin Phoenix for "Her" and Meryl Streep for "August: Osage County."
Best director nominees are Alfonso Cuaron for "Gravity," David O. Russell for "American Hustle," Alexander Payne for "Nebraska," Paul Greengrass for "Captain Phillips" and Steve McQueen for "12 Years a Slave."
The Globes are run by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), and voted on by barely 80 journalists -- in contrast to the Oscars, chosen by 6,000 members of the prestigious Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Nominations for the Oscars will be announced on Thursday. The Academy Awards will be held on March 2.