Dramas Mystic River and In America are leading nominations for the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA) Awards.
Mystic River stars Sean Penn (left) and Kevin Bacon
Directed by Clint Eastwood, Mystic River got eight nominations including one for best film, while In America - starring Samantha Morton - got seven.
Eight other films will challenge to be best film, including The Return Of The King and Nicole Kidman's Cold Mountain.
The prizes, voted for by North American critics and awarded next month, are seen as good pointers to Oscar success.
Last year, Chicago beat The Pianist and Gangs of New York to the BFCA's best film title, and went on to be named best picture at the Oscars.
Of this year's nominees, Mystic River - which stars Sean Penn as a father trying to get to the bottom of his daughter's death - has already been acclaimed by critics.
In America stars Samantha Morton and Paddy Constantine
It recently topped the US National Board of Review's list of the best 10 films of 2003.
And In America, which follows a young Irish family trying to make their way in New York, has also emerged as a strong contender for the awards season.
Bill Murray's quirky comedy Lost In Translation and Tim Burton's Big Fish have five nominations each while The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is up for four awards.
Also nominated for best film are Finding Nemo, The Last Samurai, Master and Commander and Seabiscuit.
BFCA president Joey Berlin said the list was "fascinating" for its diversity of "several epics and several smaller, intensely personal films".