"Lincoln", the story of US President Abraham Lincoln's battle to end slavery starring Daniel Day-Lewis in the title role, won 10 BAFTA nominations on Wednesday, putting it ahead of the pack at Britain's top film honors.
Added to its domination of the Golden Globe contenders going into Sunday night's awards ceremony, British critics said the film appeared to be in pole position to sweep Oscar nominations which are announced on Thursday.
"Les Miserables", the movie version of the global hit stage musical, and shipwreck saga "Life of Pi" followed with nine BAFTA nominations each, while the latest instalment of James Bond, "Skyfall", garnered eight.
Iranian hostage thriller "Argo" won seven nominations and "Anna Karenina", an adaptation of the Russian novel, earned six.
"Amour", Austrian director Michael Haneke's moving portrayal of death, bagged four nominations, an unusually high number for a film in a foreign language.
RISKS PAY OFF
Eric Fellner of Working Title Films, the company behind Les Miserables and Anna Karenina, said he was pleased that two potentially risky projects had been recognized.
Les Miserables, by Oscar-winning director of "The King's Speech" Tom Hooper, was sung live on set, while Joe Wright's Anna Karenina, starring Keira Knightley and Jude Law, was set against the backdrop of elaborate stage sets.
"We knew that it was a much-loved musical and there was a large part of the world's population who were also aware of the book," Fellner said of Les Miserables after the BAFTA nominations were announced.
"But it didn't stack up as a mainstream movie because over the past decades very few (musicals) have worked. It was a big risk," he told Reuters, adding that awards recognition could provide a big lift for a picture just hitting theatres now.
Of Anna Karenina, he added: "The minute you do anything different it becomes harder to get it made. But we really believe in our film makers."
There is likely to be disappointment, however, that the movie which has become the most successful in British box office history, with critical acclaim to match, was not included on the most coveted shortlist - best film.
That award will be contested by Argo, Lincoln, Life of Pi, Les Miserables and Zero Dark Thirty.
The best actress award is between 85-year-old Emmanuelle Riva (Amour), Helen Mirren (Hitchcock), Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook), Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty) and Marion Cotillard (Rust and Bone).
The BAFTAs have a patchy record in predicting which films go on to scoop the biggest movie honors, the Oscars, although last year the main winner in London, "The Artist", also swept to success at the Academy Awards.
The awards ceremony for the BAFTAs, formally called the EE British Academy Film Awards, takes place in London on Feb. 10.
(Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato)