Danny Boyle accepts his award for best director
Danny Boyle's film Slumdog Millionaire has swept the Critics' Choice Awards in California, winning five prizes, including best film and director.
Dev Patel, who stars in the rags-to-riches story about an improbable winner of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, was named best young actor.
The movie also collected the trophies for best writer and composer.
The Dark Knight won a pair of awards, for best action movie and for the late Heath Ledger as best supporting actor.
When Ledger's award was presented, the crowd rose to its feet as the The Dark Knight's director, Christopher Nolan, accepted the star's award on his behalf.
"I can't presume to speak for him. His voice was as unique as it was original," said Nolan.
He added that working with the star, who died of an accidental drug overdose a year ago, "was one of the greatest experiences any of us ever had or will have".
"His contributions to cinema should be greatly appreciated, so thanks for this appreciation."
Sean Penn won two awards including best actor and top acting-ensemble
Sean Penn was another double-winner, being named best actor and sharing the acting-ensemble award for Milk, the drama about California's first openly-gay elected politician, Harvey Milk.
Referring to Slumdog Millionaire, Boyle said it was "amazing" to see how generous critics had been to his film.
He described it as "a love song" to Mumbai.
Kate Winslet was named best supporting actress for her role as a Nazi war criminal in The Reader, although she was not present to collect her award.
The best actress award was a tie between Meryl Streep, who played a nun in Doubt, and Anne Hathaway as a drug-addicted woman who dominates her sister's wedding in Rachel Getting Married.
Hathaway referred to Streep backstage, saying: "To win with my idol - who I was nominated against - is amazing. I'm so thrilled for her and I'm very thrilled for myself, too."
Wall-E was the best animated feature and Ben Stiller's film Tropic Thunder collected best comedy.
Anne Hathaway (pictured) shared the best actress award with Meryl Streep
Richard Gere received a standing ovation as he accepted the Joel Siegel award, which recognises an entertainer's humanitarian efforts.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, starring Brad Pitt, had more nominations than any other film - eight - but was snubbed on the night, coming away without a win.
The Critics' Choice Awards, organised by the Broadcast Film Critics Association, is one of the most reliable predictors of Oscar success.
In the last 10 years, 70% of the critics' winners have gone on to collect Academy Awards.
Nominations for the Oscars are announced on 22 January.