The great and good of the film industry descended on London’s Leicester square to see Martin Scorcese’s The Aviator take four awards, including Best Film.
Cate Blanchett, who arrived in a tight-fitting Armani dress, won Best Supporting Actress for her role in the movie.
The Aviator, which charts the life of eccentric tycoon Howard Hughes, also took awards for best make-up and production design.
The film, which reunites Scorcese with his Gangs of New York star Leonardo DiCaprio, has dominated shortlists at award ceremonies around the globe.
It was up against low-budget British movie Vera Drake, which won no fewer than three awards.
The drama about a backstreet abortionist in the 1950s, won Best Actress for Imelda Staunton and a Best Director prize for Mike Leigh. It also won Best Costume Design.
Although Leonardo DiCaprio flew into London in the hope of winning Best Actor for his lead role in The Aviator, the award went instead to Jamie Foxx for Ray.
British actor Clive Owen won Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Closer, beating Phil Davis, Jamie Foxx and Rodrigo de la Serna.
Owen said: "This is very special because I’ve spent most of my career here. Closer started here and the film was shot here and I live here."
He said Closer "was a genuine ensemble piece and completely depends on actors working together so a huge thanks to Julia [Roberts], Jude [Law] and Natalie [Portman]".
He said he was "surprised and thrilled" to win his award.
"The whole awards season is new to me because I haven’t really won anything before, so it’s all a bit of a whirlwind," he said.
He dedicated the award to his wife, Sarah-Jane, explaining: "When you are in this game, working as much as you do and with small children at home, Sarah-Jane is a pivotal part of what I do."
Blanchett, clutching her Best Supporting Actress award, thanked the woman she played, Katharine Hepburn, for paving the way for women to work in film. "Thank you very much, I’m sure you’re pleased, although you’re not able to see this," she said.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban won the Orange Film Of The Year, voted for by the public.
Its young star, Emma Watson, who was wearing an Alberta Ferretti green dress, said: "I’m absolutely beaming to be up here receiving an award for something that I’m so proud of. There are so many people that I wish were up here."
Watson added about her co-star: "Congratulations on your absence, Daniel [Radcliffe], tonight. He’s finally got his priorities right and is revising for his GCSEs."
Vera Drake, despite its success, was a surprise loser in the Alexander Korda award for Outstanding British Film of the Year, which was won by My Summer of Love, which features a lesbian relationship.
Vera Drake also lost out in the Best Original Screenplay award to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, starring Kate Winslet. Screenwriter Charlie Kaufman thanked Winslett and her co-star, Jim Carrey, plus all the other actors saying: "I’m nervous and I’m going to go."
The Adapted Screenplay award was scooped by the writers behind Sideways, about a road trip through Californian wine country, beating the British offering Closer.
The audience whooped in delight as Mike Leigh’s name was announced as Best Director, and there were tears in actress Staunton’s eyes as Leigh collected the award from ex-Bond star Pierce Brosnan.
Leigh, who was up against The Aviator director Martin Scorsese, said: "We always say it was a surprise and sometimes I’ve said it and not meant it. On this occasion, given the other names, it’s a real surprise and an extraordinary honour.
"I’m overwhelmed and deeply grateful to Bafta and the judges and I can only say that there are so many people to thank in Vera Drake on both sides of the camera.
"It’s an immense privilege to have been allowed the freedom to make as uncompromising a film as I think Vera Drake is and an epic with such a small budget."
Collecting the Best Actress award, Staunton said: "Thank you very much. I’m so thrilled and so grateful and I’m delighted that the success of Vera Drake has boosted sales of hair nets and pinnies, which is very good."
Jamie Foxx won the Best Actor in a Leading Role award for the film Ray. He could not attend the event and so Helen Mirren, whose husband directed the film, read out his acceptance speech.
Foxx said: "I’m honoured and proud to receive this Bafta. I’d like to thank the late Ray Charles himself."
He also apologised for not being in London, joking: "Unfortunately I’m stuck driving a car in LA at gunpoint and I can’t get away."
Best Film - The Aviator
Outstanding British Film of the Year - My Summer of Love
Special Achievement by a British Director, Producer or Writer in their First Feature Film - Amma Asante, director/writer of A Way of Life
Best Director - Mike Leigh for Vera Drake
Original Screenplay - Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Best Adapted Screenplay - Sideways
Best Foreign Film - The Motorcycle Diaries
Orange Film of the Year - Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban
Best Actor - Jamie Foxx for Ray
Best Actress - Imelda Staunton for Vera Drake
Best Actor in a Supporting Role - Clive Owen for Closer
Best Actress in a Supporting Role - Cate Blanchett for The Aviator
Best Achievement in Music - The Motorcycle Diaries
Best Cinematography - Collateral
Best Editing - Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Best Production Design - The Aviator
Best Costume Design - Vera Drake
Best Sound - Ray
Best Achievement in Special Visual Effects - The Day After Tomorrow
Best Make-up and Hair - The Aviator
Best Short Animation Film - Birthday Boy
Best Short Film - The Banker