Kinsey director Bill Condon has won the top prize at the Directors Guild of Great Britain awards, beating Oscar winner Clint Eastwood.
Bill Condon directed Liam Neeson (right) in biopic Kinsey
The international film prize went to Kinsey, beating Million Dollar Baby, while My Summer of Love and Dead Man's Shoes shared the British film prize.
Motorcycle Diaries was best foreign language film at the London ceremony.
American Beauty director Sam Mendes received a lifetime achievement award from actor Kevin Spacey.
The guild's second annual ceremony also honoured television director Jon Jones for BBC series The Alan Clark Diaries and Adam Curtis for documentary The Power of Nightmares.
Simon McBurney, co-founder of theatre company Complicite, received an outstanding directorial achievement in theatre award at central London's Curzon Mayfair cinema on Sunday.
But Martin Scorsese, who had been nominated for The Aviator, and Mike Leigh, whose film Vera Drake was shortlisted, were left empty-handed.
US film-maker Bill Condon directed Liam Neeson in the biopic Kinsey, having previously made the film Gods and Monsters.
Mendes, who is married to actress Kate Winslet, said he was "very surprised" to win the guild's lifetime achievement award.
"I feel the award is a bank loan, which I'll take out and pay back by the end of 20 years, and by then I'll feel more deserving," he said.
"I think it was Max Stafford Clark who likened being a director to being an alcoholic - you never know other people are going through the same experience until you meet and work with them."