The searing historical epic 12 Years a Slave and the con-artist caper American Hustle lead the 71st annual Golden Globes with seven nominations each.
Jane Campion's Queenstown shot miniseries Top of the Lake also scooped two nominations: For best miniseries or movie, and best actress nomination for Elisabeth Moss.
The nominations announced in Beverly Hills, California, by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association suggested American Hustle and 12 Years a Slave - one outlandish and farcical, the other grimly accurate - may be this year's Oscar favourites.
Hailed by critics as the movies' most unblinking portrait of slavery, 12 Years a Slave verified its front-runner status with nominations including best film drama, Chiwetel Ejiofor for best actor in a drama, Steve McQueen for best director and Michael Fassbender and Lupita Nyong'o for their supporting roles.
"All of these nominations hopefully mean that more people will go and see it and that is really exciting because I feel this film is pivotal and just so good for the world," said Nyong'o.
American Hustle dominated on the Globes' other category side: comedy or musical. The fictionalised story of the FBI's Abscam investigation amid the disco 1970s earned nominations for best movie comedy and David O Russell for best director. Much of its starry cast received nominations, including lead actors Christian Bale and Amy Adams, as well as last year's Oscar darling, Jennifer Lawrence for best supporting actress.
Also in the mix are Alexander Payne's father-son road trip Nebraska, with five nominations, including best actor for Bruce Dern. The space odyssey Gravity earned four nominations, as did the Somali pirate thriller Captain Phillips, starring Tom Hanks as the kidnapped cargo ship captain.
Alfonso Cuaron's innovative 3-D spectacle Gravity, for which star Sandra Bullock received a best actress nomination, should be a bigger Oscar heavyweight at the Academy Awards, which honour technical categories that the Globes don't. With more than $630 million in worldwide box office, "Gravity" also figures to be the populist favourite.
This year's comedy competition - usually a mixed bag compared to the dramatic categories - could be the strongest field ever for the Globes. Aside from American Hustle, the group includes Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street, Alexander Payne's Nebraska, Spike Jonze's Her and the Coen brothers' Inside Llewyn Davis.
The soulful futuristic romance Her and `60s Greenwich Village folk tale Inside Llewyn Davis both reaped three nominations, including nods for its stars: newcomer Oscar Isaac for Llewyn Davis and Joaquin Phoenix for Her.
The last film of 2013 to screen, Scorsese's three-hour financial industry extravaganza had been one of the biggest question marks this awards season. After being snubbed by the Screen Actors Guild Awards nominations, it earned a nomination for Leonardo DiCaprio's performance as an out-of-control Wall Street trader, along with the best picture nomination.
The 77-year-old Dern rounds out best actor in a comedy for his performance as a taciturn Montana man who believes he's won a mailing sweepstakes. He's joined on the dramatic best actor side by another 77-year-old veteran, Robert Redford, who had surprisingly been overlooked by the Screen Actors. The actor, who hasn't ever won an acting Oscar, was nominated by the Globes for his nearly unspoken performance as a man shipwrecked in the Indian Ocean in All Is Lost.
In the dramatic best picture category, 12 Years a Slave was joined by Captain Phillips, Gravity, Philomena and Rush. Most notably shutout was Lee Daniels' The Butler, the Civil Rights history told through a long-serving White House butler played by Forest Whitaker.
The awards and their boozy telecast are known for a desire to attract stars, even if their films aren't quite up to snuff. (It will be a long time before the HFPA, a collection of about 85 largely freelance journalists, lives down its nominations for Johnny Depp's The Tourist.) This year's ceremony on January 12 will again be hosted by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, who led last year's broadcast to 19.7 million viewers, a significant bump for the Globes. They often serve a preamble to the more prestigious Oscars, which will be held March 2.
This year's Cecil B. DeMille lifetime achievement award will be given to Woody Allen, who, long a absentee from award shows, isn't expected to attend. His latest film Blue Jasmine, a portrait of a bitter, fallen socialite played by Cate Blanchett, won nominations for Blanchett and Sally Hawkins.
The last two years, one of the Globes' best-picture winners went on to top the Academy Awards. Last year, the Globes awarded Ben Affleck's Argo best picture for drama. The year before that, the silent film ode The Artist won best picture for a comedy.
Though the Globes are often known for idiosyncratic choices (last year Salmon Fishing in the Yemen received three nominations), their 2013 picks contained few oddities.
Among the surprises were a few nominees for best actress in a comedy. Julie Delpy was nominated for her performance in the romance Before Midnight, the third film in Richard Linklater's series. And Greta Gerwig received a nod for Frances Ha, the black-and-white story of a young, meandering New York dancer.
"When the phone rang this morning, I silenced it and I thought, UGH, who do I owe money to?" said Gerwig.
Disney's making-of "Mary Poppins" tale Saving Mr. Banks, a possible Oscar contender, fared poorly Thursday, earning only a nomination for Emma Thompson's lead performance as "Poppins" author P.L. Travers. While the Texas HIV drama Dallas Buyers Club was rewarded with expected nominations for Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto, it failed to land any others.
McConaughey, Redford and Ejiofor are joined in best actor by Tom Hanks for Captain Phillips and Idris Elba, who plays the late Nelson Mandela in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.
A film that could have easily been a theatrical release, Steven Soderbergh's Liberace drama Behind the Candelabra, topped the Globes' television nominations. The HBO film helped lead the cable channel to a leading nine nominations among TV networks.
The digital platform Netflix, though, emerged as a new challenger with six total nods. The subscription service's first major foray into original programming, the political thriller House of Cards, tied Candelabra with four nominations. House of Cards, produced by David Fincher and starring Kevin Spacey, is also a product of filmmakers who turned to the small screen.
HBO LEADS TV CATEGORIES WITH NINE GLOBE NOMINATIONS
HBO led all television networks with nine Golden Globe nominations while Netflix, which didn't exist as an original programming source until February, snagged six nominations - more than stalwarts ABC, CBS and NBC.
Starz and Showtime also had six nominations each.
The Golden Globes set up a potential victory lap for the well-regarded final season of Breaking Bad, which was nominated for best drama series and earned Bryan Cranston a nod for best actor. After sweeping the drama awards earlier this year, Showtime's Homeland was shut out for the major awards.
High-profile actors in HBO movies about music figures earned some notice from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Michael Douglas and Matt Damon were both nominated for best TV movie actor for their roles in Behind the Candelabra, and Rob Lowe had a supporting actor nod. Al Pacino earned an acting nomination for playing music producer Phil Spector in an HBO film.
Netflix's political series House of Cards earned a nomination for best TV drama, while Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright were nominated for their acting in the series. With the release of its inaugural season in February, House of Cards represented Netflix's first foray into TV programming.
Another Netflix series, Orange is the New Black, earned Taylor Schilling a nomination for best drama actress. Finally, Jason Bateman earned a comedy nomination for the Netflix remake of Arrested Development.
Starz often finds its original programming overlooked, but broke through this year with its films Dancing on the Edge and White Queen.
Don Cheadle of House of Lies will try for a second straight Golden Globe as a TV comedy actor, competing with Bateman, Jim Parsons of The Big Bang Theory and Andy Samberg of Brooklyn Nine Nine. Sentimental favorite Michael J Fox, whose NBC show hasn't been doing well in the ratings, earned an acting nomination for his work.
The best showing for the commercial broadcast networks, which were completely shut out of the awards given out earlier this year, came in the best comedy category. There, CBS' The Big Bang Theory, ABC's Modern Family, NBC's Parks and Recreation and Fox's Brooklyn Nine Nine will compete with last year's winner, HBO's Girls.
Zoey Deschanel of Fox's New Girl was nominated for best actor in a comedy, along with last year's winner, Lena Dunham of Girls. Edie Falco of Nurse Jackie, Julia Louis-Dreyfus of Veep were also nominated, along with Amy Poehler of Parks and Recreation, who is co-hosting the Golden Globes with Tina Fey.
Louis-Dreyfus actualy earned two nominations - one for Veep and one for best actress in a movie comedy for Enough Said.
"Does this mean I need two dresses?" the actress quipped.
PBS' Downton Abbey joins Breaking Bad and House of Cards as best drama nominees, along with CBS' The Good Wife and Showtime's new Masters of Sex.
Cranston and Spacey will compete for best drama actor with James Spader, whose NBC series The Blacklist has been a hit in its rookie season. Michael Sheen of Masters of Sex and Liev Schreiber of Ray Donovan also earned acting nods.
The best drama actress category sets up a competition between two big network shows - Julianna Margulies of The Good Wife and Kerry Washington of Scandal - with the Netflix stars Schilling and Wright, and Tatiana Maslany of Orphan Black.
Downton Abbey creator, writer and producer Julian Fellowes was already looking forward to the January 12 Globes ceremony.
"The Globes are pretty lively because everyone is sitting at tables and having a fairly convivial time of it. Actually, the whole thing is a really jolly evening. I wouldn't change anything because I think these kinds of award evenings, America does better than anyone," he said.
"They're just so much jollier they are back at home."
12 Years a Slave
Picture, Musical or Comedy
Inside Llewyn Davis
The Wolf of Wall Street
Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Idris Elba, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips
Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Robert Redford, All Is Lost
Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock, Gravity
Judi Dench, Philomena
Emma Thompson, Saving Mr Banks
Kate Winslet, Labor Day
Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
Paul Greengrass, Captain Phillips
Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
Alexander Payne, Nebraska
David O Russell, American Hustle
Actor, Musical or Comedy
Christian Bale, American Hustle
Bruce Dern, Nebraska
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street
Oscar Isaac, Inside Llewyn Davis
Joaquin Phoenix, Her
Actress, Musical or Comedy
Amy Adams, American Hustle
Julie Delpy, Before Midnight
Greta Gerwig, Frances Ha
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Enough Said
Meryl Streep, August: Osage County
Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
Daniel Bruhl, Rush
Bradley Cooper, American Hustle
Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine
Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a Slave
Julia Roberts, August: Osage County
June Squibb, Nebraska
Blue Is the Warmest Color
The Great Beauty
The Wind Rises
Despicable Me 2
Spike Jonze, Her
Bob Nelson, Nebraska
Jeff Pope and Steve Coogan, Philomena
John Ridley, 12 Years a Slave
Eric Warren Singer and David O Russell, American Hustle
Alex Ebert, All Is Lost
Alex Heffes, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
Steven Price, Gravity
John Williams, The Book Thief
Hans Zimmer, 12 Years a Slave
Atlas (music and lyrics by Chris Martin, Guy Berryman, Jonny Buckland and Will Champion),
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Let it Go (music and lyrics by Kristen Anderson Lopez and Robert Lopez), Frozen
Ordinary Love (music by Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen Jr and Brian Burton, lyrics by Bono), Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
Please Mr Kennedy (music and lyrics by Ed Rush, George Cromarty, T Bone Burnett, Justin Timberlake, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen), Inside Llewyn Davis
Sweeter Than Fiction (music and lyrics by Taylor Swift and Jack Antonoff), One Chance
The Good Wife
House of Cards
Masters of Sex
Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
Liev Schreiber, Ray Donovan
Michael Sheen, Masters of Sex
Kevin Spacey, House of Cards
Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife
Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black
Taylor Schilling, Orange Is the New Black
Kerry Washington, Scandal
Robin Wright, House of Cards
Series, Musical or Comedy
The Big Bang Theory
Parks and Recreation
Actress, Musical or Comedy
Zooey Deschanel, New Girl
Lena Dunham, Girls
Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation
Actor, Musical or Comedy
Jason Bateman, Arrested Development
Don Cheadle, House of Lies
Michael J Fox, The Michael J Fox Show
Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory
Andy Samberg, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Miniseries or Movie
American Horror Story: Coven
Behind the Candelabra
Dancing on the Edge
Top of the Lake
Actress, Miniseries or Movie
Helena Bonham Carter, Burton and Taylor
Rebecca Ferguson, White Queen
Jessica Lange, American Horror Story: Coven
Helen Mirren, Phil Spector
Elisabeth Moss, Top of the Lake
Actor, Miniseries or Movie
Matt Damon, Behind the Candelabra
Michael Douglas, Behind the Candelabra
Chiwetel Ejiofor, Dancing on the Edge
Idris Elba, Luther
Al Pacino, Phil Spector
Supporting Actress, Series, Miniseries or Movie
Jacqueline Bisset, Dancing on the Edge
Janet McTeer, White Queen
Hayden Panettiere, Nashville
Monica Potter, Parenthood
Sofia Vergara, Modern Family
Supporting Actor, Series, Miniseries or Movie
Josh Charles, The Good Wife
Rob Lowe, Behind the Candelabra
Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad
Corey Stoll, House of Cards
Jon Voight, Ray Donovan