Facebook film The Social Network became a big friend of broadcast critics when it won several top Critics' Choice Awards, including best film, in the race toward Hollywood's Oscars.
The movie, which traces the history of the popular website from its founding in a college dormitory to its first million users, also earned a best director trophy for David Fincher and adapted screenplay for writer Aaron Sorkin, among others.
Fincher was not on hand to accept his award, but in claiming his trophy, Sorkin made a point of mentioning Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who had not cooperated with the making of the fictional film.
On stage, Sorkin called Zuckerberg "an extraordinary leader" and "altruistic" and said, "we all owe you a debt of gratitude" for creating the website that has become ingrained in much of society.
Colin Firth was named best actor for his role as a stammering King George VI who must prove to the United Kingdom that he can be a leader in the dark days ahead of the Second World War in The King's Speech, which also claimed best original screenplay.
Backstage, Firth told reporters King George's tale was "a story of quiet dignity... set against a very broad stage".
Natalie Portman, who recently revealed she was pregnant and engaged to be married, took home the trophy for best actress portraying a young ballerina who grows into a mature woman and a dancer in drama The Black Swan.
"I feel great," Portman told reporters about her pregnancy. "It's been really calm and good."
The night's other big winner was boxing drama The Fighter, which earned awards for best ensemble performance for its cast, best supporting actress for Melissa Leo as a headstrong mother, and supporting actor for Christian Bale playing a boxer whose career is ruined by drugs.
The Critics Choice honours are given out by the Broadcast Film Critics Association, which includes some 250 TV, radio and online critics and is the largest group of film and TV reviewers in the United States and Canada.
Its awards come only two days before the Hollywood Foreign Press Association hands out Golden Globe trophies, and both events come a little more than a week before nominations for Oscars are handed out on January 25.
Taken as a whole, critics awards often provide hints about which films, actors, actresses and others will compete for Oscars when they are given out by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, this year on February 27.
Last year's winner of Critics' Choice honours for best film and director, for instance, were war drama The Hurt Locker and its maker Kathryn Bigelow. Both went on to win Academy Awards in their respective categories.
Other winners of Critics Choice honours included director Christopher Nolan's thriller Inception, which was named best action movie. It is widely expected to compete for Oscars.
Box office sensation Toy Story 3 was named best animated movie, and a nonfiction film about education issues, Waiting for Superman, claimed the trophy for best documentary.
An award for best made-for-TV movie went to World War Two tale The Pacific.
The BFCA gave out two honorary awards, one to director Quentin Tarantino for his work in mixing music and movies, and to Matt Damon for his humanitarian work outside Hollywood bringing fresh water to people who don't have it.