Hugo, the 3D epic adventure film directed by Martin Scorsese, leads the charge at 2012 Academy Awards with 11 nominations, including best film and director.
The second in line come The Artist, the French comedy which is up for 10 awards, including best film, director, actor and supporting actress.
Meryl Streep receives her 17th Oscar nomination for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher, while George Clooney and Brad Pitt are up for best actor.
The winners will be announced in Los Angeles on 26 February.
Seven other films are in competition for the best picture prize alongside The Artist and Hugo.
They are War Horse, Moneyball, The Tree Of Life, Midnight In Paris, The Help, The Descendants, and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.
Both Hugo and The Artist are love-letters to cinema and reflect an appreciation for the silent era.
Hugo is a heartwarming family tale about an orphaned boy living in a French railway station.
The Artist tells the story of an actor put out of work by the advent of the “talkies”.
Michel Hazanavicius received nods for writing and directing the comedy, while his wife Berenice Bejo was named in the best supporting actress category.
Berenice Bejo said she was “overjoyed and filled with happiness” after hearing of the nominations, while Michael Hazanavicius said the film’s impressive tally of nominations was “far beyond what I ever imagined”.
Jean Dujardin, who stars in the film, will compete for best actor along with George Clooney (The Descendants), Demian Bichir (A Better Life), Brad Pitt (Moneyball) and British actor Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy).
It is Gary Oldman’s first nomination, after more than 30 years on the big screen.
He said: “You may have heard this before, but it has never been truer than it is for me today: It is extremely humbling, gratifying, and delightful to have your work recognized by the Academy, and to join the celebrated ranks of previous nominees and colleagues. Amazing.”
Meryl Streep, 62, who is up for best actress, already had more Oscar nominations than any other actor before the Academy announced its 2012 shortlist.
She has now pulled further ahead from Katharine Hepburn and Jack Nicholson, who have 12 nods each and are in second place.
Meryl Streep won twice, for Kramer vs. Kramer and Sophie’s Choice.
Other contenders in this year’s best actress category are Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs), Viola Davis (The Help), Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) and Michelle Williams (My Week With Marilyn).
Woody Allen picked up a best director nomination for his 41st movie Midnight In Paris. His competition comes from Martin Scorsese, Hazanavicius, Terrence Malick (The Tree Of Life) and Alexander Payne (The Descendants).
Co-stars of The Help Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain will go head to head for the best supporting actress prize.
Melissa McCarthy and Britain’s Janet McTeer complete the category for their roles in Bridesmaids and Albert Nobbs respectively.
It is Janet McTeer’s second Oscar nod, following recognition for 1999’s Tumbleweed.
British star Kenneth Branagh will vie for the best supporting actor title, after playing one of his childhood idols in My Week With Marilyn.
“It was a rare honor to play Sir Laurence Olivier,” he said. “To be recognized by the Academy for doing so is overwhelming. I’m absolutely thrilled.”
Kenneth Branagh’s challengers are Jonah Hill (Moneyball), Nick Nolte (Warrior), Max von Sydow (Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close).
Christopher Plummer, 82, is also on the shortlist for the movie Beginners, in which he plays an elderly father who comes out of the closet.
With a career that spans 60 years, Christopher Plummer’s work largely went unrecognized until two years ago, when he was nominated in the supporting actor category for his portrayal of Leo Tolstoy in The Last Station.
If he wins this time, Christopher Plummer will become the oldest ever actor to receive an Oscar, surpassing Jessica Tandy who was 80 when she was named best actress for Driving Miss Daisy.
The honor could alternatively go to supporting actor nominee Max von Sydow, who is also 82.
Kung Fu Panda 2 was recognized in the animated film category, along with A Cat In Paris, Chico And Rita, Puss In Boots and Rango.
Iranian film A Separation, which recently triumphed at the London Critics Circle awards, received two nods, including best foreign language movie and original screenplay.
As always, there were some surprises. Steve McQueen’s controversial film Shame, starring Michael Fassbender as a sex addict, was notably absent from the nominations.
We Need To Talk About Kevin and Drive, both of which have proven popular with voters at other awards ceremonies, were also missing from the Academy’s longlist.
Oscar nomination film tally
• Hugo – 11
• The Artist – 10
• The Help – 6
• Moneyball – 6
• War Horse – 6
• The Descendants – 5
• The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – 4
• Midnight in Paris – 4