The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King triumphed at the Baftas as it took home best film.
Tolkien’s fantasy epic picked up a total of five prizes last night – four Baftas and the Orange Film of the Year award, which is voted by the public.
Nineteen-year-old Scarlett Johansson was named best actress for her role in Lost In Translation, and her co-star Bill Murray won best actor.
Renee Zellweger won best supporting actress for her performance in Cold Mountain but the American Civil War epic was last night’s big loser – just as it was at the Golden Globes.
The film had led the field with 13 nominations but came away with just two, Zellweger’s award and another for best score.
It was a good night for Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. The seafaring epic picked up four prizes including a surprise best director award for Peter Weir.
Bill Nighy won best supporting actor for his role in British hit Love Actually.
Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson said he was delighted to land best film.
“I’m absolutely thrilled, completely thrilled, my heart’s thumping,” the New Zealander said.
“The party will probably be huge, there are quite a few Kiwis over here and the lager will be flowing like water.”
He said of the third and final film in the Tolkien trilogy: “We were a bunch of Kiwis making this film with American money and we were always aware that we were looking after one of Britain’s most loved books.”
Johansson had been nominated for two best actress awards, Lost in Translation and Girl With A Pearl Earring.
“Oh my God, this is really unexpected,” she said in a breaking voice, before thanking her mother “for supporting me and for being there for me and taking me for auditions and buying me hotdogs afterwards”.
The teenager has been acting since the age of eight and first gained acclaim playing Kristin Scott Thomas’s daughter in 1998 film The Horse Whisperer.
In Lost In Translation she plays a lonely young bride staying in a Tokyo hotel who strikes up an unlikely friendship with disillusioned actor Bill Murray.
Murray could not be at the ceremony but sent an acceptance speech which was read out by director Sofia Coppola and had the audience in stitches.
He beat hot favourite Sean Penn, who was nominated for his roles in both 21 Grams and Mystic River.
It was a first Bafta win for Renee Zellweger, and she appeared emotional as she walked on stage, clutching her chest and saying: “My heart, I’m sorry.”
She thanked co-stars Jude Law and Nicole Kidman, telling them: “It was a privilege to work alongside you.”
The 34-year-old plays a farmhand who comes to Kidman’s rescue, a role which has also earned her an Oscar nomination.
Winning the Bafta was “unexpected and a huge honour”, she said.
Outstanding British film of the year went to Touching The Void, a documentary about a true-life mountaineering disaster.
Best non-English film was Michael Winterbottom’s In This World, the story of two young Afghan refugees and their perilous journey to Britain as asylum seekers.
The awards ceremony at the Odeon in London’s Leicester Square was hosted by Stephen Fry.
John Boorman was given a Bafta fellowship presented by Jon Voight, star of his 1972 film classic Deliverance.
Since the Baftas were moved ahead of the Oscars, they have increased their profile and now attract major Hollywood names.
Stars bringing glamour to the red carpet included Zellweger, showing off her Bridget Jones curves in a black strapless Carolina Herrera gown; Scarlett Johansson, wearing a Prada dress in silver satin; Joely Richardson in orange Christian Dior; Emma Thompson, looking glamorous once again in a pale pink Maria Grachvogel dress and Gina shoes; Alicia Silverstone, wearing a bright red Christian Dior gown; and British actress Thandie Newton, in a black dress cut so low that it revealed her G-string.
A huge crowd turned out for the event and the loudest reception was for Pirates of the Caribbean star Johnny Depp.
Other stars at the ceremony included Jude Law and girlfriend Sienna Miller, Benicio Del Toro, Holly Hunter, Paul Bettany, Anthony Minghella, Val Kilmer, Dougray Scott, Sir Ian McKellen, Naomi Watts, Martine McCutcheon, Tim Burton and wife Helena Bonham Carter.