The Social Network and Glee were the main winners at the Golden Globes, held at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles.
The former, about the creation of the Facebook website, was named best film drama, winning additional prizes for its direction, screenplay and music.
Glee, about a high school musical group, won best TV musical or comedy as well as two supporting actor prizes.
As expected, Colin Firth was named best actor in a drama for his role in The King's Speech.
Yet while the British movie began the evening with seven nominations - more than any other film - this was to be its only award of the night.
Its star, recognised for his role as stammering monarch King George VI, jokingly thanked the gala's organisers for helping him stave off a midlife crisis.
"Right now this is all that stands between me and a Harley Davidson," he said of his award, going on to thank his fellow actors in the royal period drama.
Few were surprised when Natalie Portman was named best dramatic actress for her role as a ballet dancer in Black Swan.
The actress, who is expecting a baby, used her acceptance speech to thank her parents for "bringing me into this world and giving me this beautiful life".
The Kids are All Right - about a lesbian couple reunited with the biological father of their teenage children - was named best musical or comedy, winning an additional prize for star Annette Bening.
Bening, who beat co-star Julianne Moore to the best actress in a comedy prize, called Moore "a class act" for her role in getting the film made.
Batman star Christian Bale picked up the first prize of the evening, winning best supporting actor for his role in The Fighter.
Melissa Leo later received the female equivalent for playing his mother in the fact-based boxing movie.
Johnny Depp had begun the evening with two nominations in the best actor in a musical or comedy category.
Yet he left empty-handed after Paul Giamatti was named the winner for his role as a boozy romantic in Barney's Version.
"I got paid to smoke and drink and have sex in this movie," said the US actor, going on to "salute the great nation of Canada" where his film was shot.
HBO show Boardwalk Empire was named best drama series, winning an additional accolade for its lead actor Steve Buscemi.
Toy Story 3 won the best animated film prize, while Al Pacino was recognised for playing right-to-die activist Jack Kervorkian in mini-series You Don't Know Jack.
British comic Ricky Gervais was the event's outspoken host, beginning the event with jokes aimed at Charlie Sheen, Playboy founder Hugh Hefner and 3D movies.
"It seems like everything was three-dimensional this year - except the characters from The Tourist," he said in a jibe aimed at Depp's critically slated romantic comedy.
The Office creator, hosting the ceremony for the second consecutive year, continued with jokes made at the expense of Bruce Willis, Robert Downey Jr and Heather Mills.
Yet he was conspicuously absent later on in the show, failing to make an appearance for more than an hour of the three-hour NBC telecast.
Hollywood veteran Robert De Niro was warmly welcomed as he collected a lifetime achievement award from actor Matt Damon.
But it was Michael Douglas who got the most rousing reception of the evening as he came on stage to present the night's final award.
"There's got to be a better way to get a standing ovation," joked the actor, who was recently treated for throat cancer.
Mark Zuckerberg, the billionaire subject of The Social Network, was thanked in absentia by the film's director David Fincher and writer Aaron Sorkin.
The latter, best known as the creator of TV show The West Wing, said the Facebook founder was "a great entrepreneur, a great visionary and an incredible altruist".
Elsewhere British actress Helena Bonham Carter made a notable fashion statement by wearing differently coloured shoes - one red, one green - on the traditional red carpet.
The latter colour was a popular choice, with Angelina Jolie, Catherine Zeta Jones and Black Swan star Mila Kunis all sporting gowns of that distinctive hue.
Both movies and TV shows are recognised at the Golden Globes, presented annually by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA).
The recipients of its film honours often go on to receive further accolades at the Academy Awards, to be held this year on 27 February.