Steven Spielberg's presidential drama "Lincoln" led the way with seven nominations for the Golden Globes, as Hollywood's awards season kicks off.
The veteran filmmaker has taken an early lead in the annual race which climaxes with the Oscars in February, with Globe nominations including the key categories of best drama, best director and best actor.
Actor turned director Ben Affleck's Iran hostage crisis drama "Argo" and Quentin Tarantino's brutal western "Django Unchained" came in second with five nominations each from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA).
"Les Miserables," romantic comedy "Silver Linings Playbook" and Osama bin Laden hunt movie "Zero Dark Thirty" by Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow had four nominations each.
Daniel Day-Lewis is up for best actor as Abraham Lincoln, against Denzel Washington for piloting "Flight," Richard Gere for "Arbitrage," John Hawkes for "The Sessions" and Joaquin Phoenix for "The Master."
"I'm very grateful to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for so generously acknowledging us in a year of such powerful films and performances," Day-Lewis said in a statement issued by his publicist.
For best actress Jessica Chastain won a nod as expected for her CIA agent role in "Zero Dark Thirty," along with Britain's Helen Mirren for "Hitchcock," France's Marion Cotillard for "Rust and Bone," Naomi Watts for Indian Ocean tsunami drama "The Impossible" and Rachel Weisz for "The Deep Blue Sea."
The announcements come as Tinseltown accelerates into its annual awards season, after the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) nominations announced Wednesday, in which "Lincoln" and "Silver Linings Playbook" were joint leaders.
After a US presidential election year, Spielberg will be hoping to fare better with "Lincoln" than he did with last year's epic "War Horse," which was nominated for six Oscars and two Globes but went home empty-handed.
In the best drama category, Spielberg's movie -- about Lincoln's battle to free slaves against the backdrop of the Civil War -- is up against "Argo," "Django Unchained," "Life of Pi" by Ang Lee and "Zero Dark Thirty."
"It's very gratifying to get this many nominations from the HFPA for a film I worked so hard on and am so passionate about," said Tarantino, who won an Oscar for 1994 film "Pulp Fiction."
Bigelow, whose 2008 Iraq war movie "The Hurt Locker" won six Academy Awards, added: "It's an honor, sincerely, and very humbling to be singled out this way by the HFPA."
Affleck, nominated for directing "Argo," was modest about his skills behind the camera.
"It is coming more naturally but I don't have the sense I have figured it out and to be honest I don't know if anyone ever figures it out," he said.
Best comedy or musical nominees are Indian-themed "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," "Silver Linings Playbook," "Les Miserables," "Moonrise Kingdom," and "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen," starring Ewan McGregor.
Best comedy/music actor nods went to Jack Black for "Bernie," "Hangover" star Bradley Cooper for "Silver Linings," Australian Hugh Jackman for "Les Mis," McGregor for "Salmon Fishing" and Bill Murray for "Hyde Park on Hudson."
Three British actresses are shortlisted for best comedy or musical turns: Emily Blunt for "Salmon Fishing," Judi Dench for "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and fellow veteran Maggie Smith for "Quartet."
Britain's Grammy-winning songstress Adele won a Globe nod for her theme tune to the latest 007 blockbuster, "Skyfall."
On the small screen, multiple award-winning British period drama "Downton Abbey" was nominated for best drama, against "Breaking Bad," "Boardwalk Empire," spy thriller series "Homeland" and "The Newsroom."
The 70th annual Golden Globes show will be held in Los Angeles on January 13, hosted by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler -- a safer bet for organizers after British comic Ricky Gervais' close-to-the-bone humor the last few years.