The Help, the adaptation of Kathryn Stockett's best-selling novel about black maids speaking out about their white employers during the civil-rights movement, followed behind The Artist with three wins in the ceremony's acting categories: Viola Davis as best actress, Octavia Spencer as best supporting actress and the film's cast as best acting ensemble.
"I absolutely knew I wanted to be an actor because I wanted to be somebody," an emotional Davis said accepting her award. "I wanted to dream big and make a mark somehow. That's something absolutely that Aibileen was not afforded. I considered it my honour to pay homage to these women at this time period who were not allowed to dream and not allowed to find their purpose."
Others who accepted trophies at the lavish Hollywood Palladium ceremony included George Clooney as best actor for The Descendants, Christopher Plummer as best supporting actor for Beginners and Thomas Horn as best young actor for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.
"Frankly, I didn't even imagine I would get this, but I have," beamed a surprised Horn.
Paul Scheer and Rob Huebel hosted the ceremony, which was broadcast live on VH1.
Other winners included Bridesmaids as best comedy movie, Drive as best action movie, Rango as best animated feature, Midnight in Paris as best original screenplay, Moneyball as best adapted screenplay, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo for best editing and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 for best makeup and best sound.