No Country for Old Men, the latest work from sibling duo Joel and Ethan Coen, has won the first major film prize of the movie awards season.
Javier Bardem plays a ruthless assassin in No Country for Old Men
Their dark thriller was named best film of 2007 by the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures (NBR) - the first leading awards body to hand out prizes.
The film was also recognised for its adapted screenplay and ensemble cast.
George Clooney won best actor for legal drama Michael Clayton, while Britain's Julie Christie was named best actress.
Tim Burton won the best director prize for his musical Sweeney Todd, with Pixar comedy Ratatouille named best animated feature.
NBR TOP 10 OF 2007
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
The Bourne Ultimatum
The Bucket List
Into the Wild
The Kite Runner
Lars and the Real Girl
The NBR's members include teachers, historians and film industry professionals, but their awards are no guarantee of future success.
The last recipient of the board's top prize that went on to win the best picture Oscar was American Beauty in 1999.
However, its rundown of the year's Top 10 films - which does not include its best film recipient - often contains many of the year's leading awards contenders.
Based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy, No Country for Old Men stars Tommy Lee Jones as a lawman on the trail of a psychotic killer, played by Spanish actor Javier Bardem.
The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival but was beaten to the Palme d'Or by the Romanian drama 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days.
The NBR named the latter work as one of its top five foreign films of the year, but gave its best foreign film award to The Diving Bell and the Butterfly - a French biopic based on the memoirs of a hospitalised stroke victim.
There were also two awards for Afflecks - a best supporting actor prize to Casey for western The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and a best directorial debut award to his brother Ben for Gone Baby Gone.
Christie was recognised for her moving work in Away From Her
Other breakthrough awards went to Into the Wild star Emile Hirsch and Juno actress Ellen Page, while Michael Douglas received a career achievement honour.
Christie was recognised for her role as a woman with Alzheimer's disease in the Canadian film Away From Her.
The awards season continues next week with critics' groups from Boston, New York and Los Angeles naming their picks of the year.
Their events will be followed on 13 December by the announcement of this year's Golden Globe nominations.