Actress Taraji P. Henson won a Golden Globe for best actress in the TV drama category, based on her role in the TV series, Empire. Picture: AFP PHOTO/Mark Ralston
Actress Taraji P. Henson won a Golden Globe for best actress in the TV drama category, based on her role in the TV series, Empire. Picture: AFP PHOTO/Mark Ralston

LOS ANGELES — Epic survival thriller The Revenant and space blockbuster The Martian won big at the Golden Globes on Sunday, boosting their chances for Oscars glory in February.

The Revenant — the story of legendary fur trapper Hugh Glass, played by Leonardo DiCaprio — won three top awards at the star-studded gala, for best drama, best actor (DiCaprio) and best director (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu).

The Martian, the tale of an astronaut stranded alone on Mars, won two top prizes — best comedy film and best actor in a comedy for Matt Damon, who stars in the blockbuster.

The victories for the two films at the Globes put them in prime position as Hollywood’s annual awards season heats up, leading to the all-important Oscars on February 28.

"I cannot say how surprised I am and how proud I am to have survived this movie," Inarritu said, referring to the harsh conditions in which the movie was filmed.

Inarritu’s movie Birdman won four Oscars last year, including for best picture and best director, and many critics believe the Mexican director could emerge triumphant again this year.

DiCaprio, who got a standing ovation from his Hollywood peers, said he wanted to share the award with all the indigenous communities around the world.

"It is time that we recognize your history and that we protect your indigenous lands from corporate interests and from people that are out there to exploit them," said the actor, who critics believe may finally win his first Oscar for the movie.

A-listers Kate Winslet and Sylvester Stallone also took home acting prizes at the ceremony held in Beverly Hills, which is seen as a good indicator of which movies and actors will fight for Oscars glory.

Winslet won for best supporting actress in a film for her role in the biopic Steve Jobs, Stallone won for best supporting actor in Creed, in which he reprised his iconic role of boxer Rocky Balboa.

Spotlight, an early Globes favourite about journalists from The Boston Globe who uncovered sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, went home empty-handed despite three nominations.

Also snubbed was The Big Short, based on a book about the financial crisis of 2007-08.

Hosting the glittering gala, considered Hollywood’s biggest party of the year, was British comedian Ricky Gervais, who dished out his trademark raunchy humour, targeting Caitlyn Jenner, Mel Gibson and Jennifer Lawrence, among many others.

"Shut up, you disgusting, pill-popping deviant scum!" he said by way of greeting the crowd at the event organised by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

The event was carried live on television in the US — but with a delay of a few seconds to bleep out Gervais’s dirtiest jokes for a prime-time US audience.

Other films that vied for the best drama prize — and expect to figure in the Oscars conversation — are lesbian romance Carol starring Cate Blanchett, harrowing kidnap tale Room and the summer action blockbuster Mad Max: Fury Road.

Brie Larson won the Globe for best actress in a drama for Room, about a mother and her child held captive in a small room. She bested Blanchett and Carol co-star Rooney Mara.

In the best foreign movie category, Hungarian Holocaust drama Son of Saul was the winner.

Unlike the Oscars, the Golden Globes also honour television shows.

Mr Robot, about a computer programmer and vigilante hacker, took home the prize for best drama series. Amazon’s comedy Mozart in the Jungle took the prize for best comedy series.

Jon Hamm won his second Golden Globe for best actor in a drama for his portrayal of womanising advertising executive Don Draper in Mad Men, whose finale aired last year.

And for best actress in the TV drama category, Taraji P Henson won the Golden Globe for her role in Empire, which looks at the struggle inside the family behind a major hip-hop label.

The awards are decided by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, made up of about 90 entertainment editors and writers from 55 countries who report on the industry year-round.