By Neil Smith
Entertainment reporter, BBC News, in Copenhagen
Part of Dame Judi's acceptance speech was in Danish
Dame Judi Dench was among the British successes at the European Film Awards in Copenhagen, winning an honour for her life's work.
Kristin Scott Thomas won best European actress for her role in the French language film I've Loved You So Long.
Director Steve McQueen won an award for Hunger, his biopic of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands.
Italian movie Gomorrah was the biggest winner with five awards, including best European film.
An expose of Naples' criminal underworld, the film also won awards for its director Matteo Garrone and its lead actor Toni Servillo.
"I'm completely overwhelmed," said the nine-time BAFTA winner Dame Judi, before saying "thank you for your kindness" in Danish.
The biggest cheers of the evening were reserved for the British star, who accepted her prize from her Casino Royale co-star Mads Mikkelson.
"I do hope Mads doesn't expect some inside information about 007," she joked, referring to the actor's villainous role in the 2006 James Bond film.
The veteran actress went on to reveal she had some "Danish blood somewhere" in her family and had always wanted to come to Denmark.
"We arrived yesterday and we go tomorrow," she said. "But I can assure you it is just the first of, I hope, very many visits.
"It is an incredible thing to receive this award and I'm truly grateful."
Italian Toni Servillo (r) was named best actor in two films
Dame Judi may have more than a statuette to remind her of last night's event, having taken a blow to the head from a cameraman on the red carpet.
Spanish cinematographer Oscar Faura will also be nursing some wounds after mistakenly getting up to accept an award won by Gomorrah's Marco Onorato.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix received the People's Choice Award - the only prize decided by ordinary cinemagoers.
Its British director David Yates thanked the European Film Academy for their "beautiful" award, adding he would be delighted to "take it back to Hogwarts".
The founders of the Danish Dogme movement received a special achievement award, and a standing ovation, for their influential back-to-basics film techniques.
Singer and actress Marianne Faithfull said Lars Von Trier, Thomas Vinterberg, Kristian Levring and Soren Kragh-Jacobsen had brought an "incredible energy" to world cinema.
British actress Sally Hawkins had been nominated for her role in Mike Leigh's Happy-Go-Lucky but went home empty-handed.
Despite this the 32-year-old remained as upbeat as Poppy, the eternally optimistic character she plays in the film.
"It's just an honour to be here," she said, adding it would be "lovely" were she to receive a Golden Globe nomination later this week.
"I'm an eternal gatecrasher," she joked of her current awards event ubiquity. "Whether I'm nominated or not, I'll be there."
Now in their 21st year, the European Film Awards are decided by the 1,800 members of the European Film Academy.
Next year's event will be held in the German city of Essen, the European Capital of Culture for 2010.