Pitt goes head to head with Frank Langella, for his role as disgraced US president Richard Nixon in Frost/Nixon, Sean Penn, as gay rights activist Harvey Milk in Milk, Richard Jenkins for The Visitor and recent Golden Globe winner Mickey Rourke for The Wrestler.
"I'm very grateful and appreciative of this incredible honour. I'm truly thrilled to be included," said 56-year-old Rourke, whose return to form has startled critics after years in the doldrums.
Slumdog Millionaire's Danny Boyle received his first nomination for best director, alongside Britain's Stephen Daldry for The Reader and Benjamin Button's Fincher.
Milk's Gus Van Sant and Frost/Nixon's Ron Howard completed the best director nominees.
"We are delighted that the Academy has so generously recognised our film," said Eric Fellner, of Working Title Films, the production company behind Frost/Nixon.
"All of these nominations... show that our industry is performing at the top of its game on the international stage," added John Woodward, Chief Executive Officer of the UK Film Council.
There were few surprises in the nominations, announced by former Oscar winner Forest Whitaker, in Hollywood at 0530 local time.
MOST NOMINATED FILMS
The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttton - 13
Slumdog Millionaire (pictured) - 10
The Dark Knight - 8
Milk - 8
Wall-E - 6
Doubt - 5
Frost/Nixon - 5
The Reader - 5
Changeling - 3
Revolutionary Road - 3
However, it was widely anticipated that Winslet would feature in both the best supporting and best actress categories, following her double win at the Golden Globes.
Her omission in the best supporting category created space for The Wrestler's Marisa Tomei and Benajmin Button's Taraji P Henson, best known for her role in Hustle and Flow.
They were joined by Doubt stars Amy Adams and Viola Davis, and previous best actress nominee Penelope Cruz, for Vicky Cristina Barcelona.
Actor Michael Shannon made an unexpected appearance among the best supporting actor nominees - the only actor to be nominated from the cast of Revolutionary Road, despite award hopes for both Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet.
Milk's Josh Brolin, Doubt's Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robert Downey Jr for Tropic Thunder and Heath Ledger completed the category. Ledger, who received the nomination on the anniversary of his death, remains the favourite to win.
The critically acclaimed Batman sequel, the second-highest grossing film in US box office history, did well in the technical categories, but British film-maker Christopher Nolan missed out in both the director and screenplay categories.
Tomei previously won an Oscar for her role in My Cousin Vinny in 1993
Nonetheless, British screenwriters were well represented with Mike Leigh (Happy-Go-Lucky), Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon), Sir David Hare (The Reader) and Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire) all nominated.
"I am fantastically happy and honoured," said Beaufoy. "Not just for myself but for Vikas Swarup's wonderful novel without which I would have never started my journey to the world's Maximum City, Mumbai."
The film also picked up two nominations for original song, alongside Peter Gabriel and Thomas Newman for Down To Earth from Wall-E.
Six-time nominee Wall-E, shortlisted alongside Bolt and Kung Fu Panda, is widely tipped to win the best animated feature film Oscar.
Only two previous films - Titanic (1997) and All About Eve (1950) - have received more than 13 nominations. Both films were shortlisted in 14 categories.
The awards, to be hosted by actor Hugh Jackman, will be announced on 22 February at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles.
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