Lead-acting honors for the Globes' musical or comedy categories went to Annette Bening for the lesbian-family story "The Kids Are All Right" and Paul Giamatti for the curmudgeon tale "Barney's Version."
Oscar nominations come out Jan. 25.
Colin Firth firmed up his standing as a front-runner at the Feb. 27 Oscars with his Globe win for best dramatic actor in "The King's Speech," in which he plays Queen Elizabeth II's dad, George VI, the monarch who came to the throne in the 1930s age of radio, when his stammer was a grave liability.
Natalie Portman won best dramatic actress as a ballerina losing her grip on reality in the psychosexual thriller "Black Swan." Portman's win sets her up for a two-woman showdown for best actress at the Oscars with Annette Bening, who won the Globe for best actress in a musical or comedy for her role as a stern lesbian mom in "The Kids Are All Right," which also won for best musical or comedy film.
It's familiar territory for Bening. She won the same prize at the Globes 11 years ago for "American Beauty" and went in as the best-actress favorite at the Oscars, where she lost to Globe dramatic actress winner Hilary Swank for "Boys Don't Cry."
"He's the best actor! It's not true, he totally wants to sleep with me," Portman said, giggling.
The boxing drama "The Fighter" earned both supporting-acting prizes, for Christian Bale and Melissa Leo. Bale secured his position as front-runner for the same prize at the Oscars, while Leo boosted her own prospects at Hollywood's big night.
"I got to smoke and drink and get laid in this movie and I got paid for it. An amazing, amazing thing," Giamatti said.
Fincher said he thought it was strange when "The Social Network" script came to him, since he usually makes dark character studies about misanthropes or films about serial killers. His films include the murder tales "Seven" and "Zodiac."
"I'm personally loathe to acknowledge the kind of wonderful response this film has received for fear of becoming addicted to it, so suffice it to say, it's been really nice," Fincher said.
"The Social Network" also won the Globe for musical score for Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.
"Mark Zuckerberg, if you're watching, Rooney Mara makes a prediction at the beginning of the movie. She was wrong. You turned out to be a great entrepreneur, a great visionary and an incredible altruist," Sorkin said.
Bening received her prize for the lesbian-family tale "The Kids Are All Right," winning in a field that included "The Kids Are All Right" co-starJulianne Moore. The film stars Bening and Moore as a couple whose family falls into turmoil after their teen children seek out the sperm donor that fathered them.
"I'm very proud to be a part of this very special film about two women who are deeply in love and try to keep their family together," Bening said. "My partner, Julianne Moore, I have to thank first. She asked me to do the picture with her. She made it possible for us to shoot it where we shot it, when we did, so Julianne — you are a class act, thank you."
The buzz around town on Globes weekend was not only about likely winners, but also about a lawsuit filed Thursday by a former longtime publicist for the Globes claiming the organization that runs the show, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, engages in payola schemes for nominations and awards. The allegations have been denied by the HFPA, a group of about 90 reporters covering show business for overseas outlets.
"They also accepted bribes," Gervais said, referring to the publicist lawsuit.
Philip Berk, who heads the HFPA, made no reference to the lawsuit during his appearance early in the show, simply offering a perfunctory plug for the quality of Hollywood movies.
"Aside from the fact that it's been hugely mean-spirited, with mildly sinister undertones, I'd say the vibe of the show is pretty good so far, wouldn't you?" Downey, a presenter, shot back, perhaps only half-jokingly.
Bale, who won for his role as a former boxer whose career unraveled amid drugs and crime, thanked his collaborators on "The Fighter," among them director David O. Russell and star and producer Mark Wahlberg, who plays boxer Micky Ward to Bale's Dicky Eklund, Ward's older half brother.
"I've really got to give a shout out to Mark, because he drove this whole movie, and you can only give a loud performance like the one I gave when you have a quiet anchor and a stoic character," Bale said. "I've played that one many times, and it never gets any notice."
Bale seems to be on the same awards track as his "Batman" co-star, the late Heath Ledger, was two years ago, when he won supporting actor at the Globes for "The Dark Knight" on the way to earning a posthumous Oscar.
Leo, who plays the domineering mother of Ward and Eklund, had gushing words for all of her co-stars — along with her own mother and other ancestors.
"Here in Southern California, home of my mother, her mother, her mother before her — look Mom, I got a Golden Globe!" Leo said. "Mark Wahlberg, you are a prince, you are amazing. It was so beautiful to play your mother."
"The Fighter" also is competing for best drama at the Globes, along with "Black Swan," ''Inception," ''The King's Speech" and "The Social Network."
The regal 1930s saga "The King's Speech" and the contemporary Web tale "The Social Network" are considered the favorites for best drama. "The King's Speech" led the Globes with seven nominations and "The Social Network" dominated awards from top critics groups.
"Toy Story 3," the top-grossing film released last year and the second sequel to 1995's digital animation pioneer "Toy Story," won the Globe for animated films, making Disney's Pixar Animation unit five-for-five in the category since it was added in 2006. Past Pixar winners are "Up," ''WALL-E," ''Ratatouille" and "Cars."
"Wow, were you two even born when the first 'Toy Story' came out?" ''Toy Story 3" director Lee Unkrich said to his award's presenters, 16-year-old pop star Justin Bieber and 14-year-old Hailee Steinfeld, co-star of the hit Western "True Grit."
The usually taciturn De Niro gave an uncharacteristically interesting acceptance speech, making jokes about members of the HFPA being deported (along with most of the waiters working the event) and suggesting that most people in the room hadn't seen a lot of the films he was proud of, including "Stone," ''Marvin's Room" and "Stanley and Iris."
"Some of you would be seeing them for the first time. You didn't even watch the screeners, did you?" De Niro said.
Among TV winners, "Glee" won three prizes, best comedy and supporting-acting prizes for Jane Lynch and Chris Colfer. "Boardwalk Empire" won two prizes, for best drama and dramatic actor for Steve Buscemi.
The Globe ceremony traditionally had a strong track record as a forecast for what film would win best picture at the Oscars. But the two shows have split in recent times, with only one top Globe recipient — 2008's "Slumdog Millionaire" — also winning the main prize at the Oscars over the past six years.
Beth Harris and Christy Lemire contributed to this report.