The star of the movie, George Clooney, was named best actor.
"I'm a big believer in film, it's what I do, I enjoy it, so the acknowledgement is nice and complimentary, but it's just more encouraging to keep doing what I'm trying to do," Clooney said.
Drama's top actress honor went to Meryl Streep for "The Iron Lady." It's her eighth Golden Globe win in a career with a wide-ranging variety of roles.
"If the story is interesting, it doesn't matter if it's a waitress or a queen, I'm not discriminating that way," she said. "(I'm) happy to play interesting people who have challenges in one way or another and really grateful to just keep working."
In the comedy categories, three wins for "The Artist" included best motion picture, comedy or musical, best score and best actor for Jean Dujardin.
Michelle Williams, who won best actress for "My Week with Marilyn," was eloquent in explaining the role she played.
"There is a responsibility and a known quantity with Marilyn Monroe that was new and terrifying and more challenging than anything I've attempted," she said.
In the supporting categories, Christopher Plummer won for "Beginners" and Octavia Spencer won for "The Help."
"I am living the dream of so many young actors and actresses, having my diet Pepsi alongside Hollywood's best and brightest," Spencer said. "This is the ultimate party and I got the ultimate party favor."
Martin Scorsese won the directing prize for "Hugo," Woody Allen took screenplay honors for "Midnight in Paris" and Steven Spielberg won for producing the best animated feature, "The Adventures of Tin Tin."
The Golden Globes ceremony at the Beverly Hilton was hosted by comedian Ricky Gervais, who returned for the third consecutive year despite criticism he received last year for his acerbic humor that some deemed borderline-offensive.
Along with the Screen Actors Guild Award, the Globes field helps narrow down prospects for the Academy Awards, whose nominations come out Jan. 24.
For TV, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association honored "Modern Family" with its outstanding comedy series award.
Co-star Jesse Tyler Ferguson said while this type of recognition is encouraging, it's the families who thank them on the street who really validate their work.
"We don't try to be too heavy-handed with it, but if we're opening up people's minds and hearts, it can only be a good thing," Ferguson said. "It's been really exciting for us to see that so many people have opened up their hearts."
Comedy acting awards went to Laura Dern for the HBO series, "Enlightened," and Matt LeBlanc for the Showtime series, "Episodes."
The Showtime drama "Homeland" won the award for best drama series. Its star, Claire Danes, was named best dramatic actress for her work on the hit show.
"I'm just so profoundly relieved and more than flattered to think that it has captured the audience's imagination," said Danes.
The drama actor Golden Globe went to Kelsey Grammer, who has won twice before in comedy category for "Frasier." Now, he's a winner for the Starz channel series, "Boss."