The film about the treatment of black maids in 1960s America landed three of the coveted acting honours, including a Best Actress prize for Viola Davis, while her co-star Octavia Spencer picked up the night's first award, Best Supporting Actress.
Davis told the crowd at the Hollywood Palladium, "I consider it an honour to pay homage to these woman who at that time period were not allowed to dream."
The ladies were handed another trophy, Best Acting Ensemble, but it was The Artist which was named Best Picture.
The silent movie also earned Michel Hazanavicius the Best Director honour and gained nods for Best Score and Best Costume Design.
George Clooney's chances of landing an Academy Awards nomination for his role in The Descendants were boosted when he was named Best Actor, while Christopher Plummer scooped the Best Supporting Actor for Beginners.
However, it was director Martin Scorsese who was the toast of the ceremony - as well as winning the Best Documentary Feature prize for George Harrison: Living in the Material World, he was also handed the Broadcast Film Critics Association's second Critics' Choice Music and Film Award.
Bob Dylan played in honour of Scorsese, who received his award from Leonardo DiCaprio and Harrison's widow Olivia.
The moviemaking icon told the audience, "Such a great honour and an amazing performance by the great one, Bob Dylan. This award has a very special significance to me."
Sean Penn was honoured with the prestigious Joel Siegel Award for his humanitarian efforts in Haiti, and the prize was extra poignant for the actor as it landed on the second anniversary of the 2010 earthquake which devastated the nation.
The full list of winners is as follows:
Best Picture: The Artist
Best Actor: George Clooney (The Descendants)
Best Actress: Viola Davis (The Help)
Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer (Beginners)
Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer (The Help)
Best Young Actor/Actress: Thomas Horn (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close)
Best Acting Ensemble (The Help)
Best Director: Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist)
Best Original Screenplay: Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris)
Best Adapted Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin, Steve Zaillian and Stan Chervin (Moneyball)
Best Cinematography: (tie) The Tree of Life and War Horse
Best Art Direction: Hugo
Best Editing: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Best Costume Design: The Artist
Best Make-up: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Best Visual Effects: Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Best Sound: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Best Animated Feature: Rango
Best Action Movie: Drive
Best Comedy: Bridesmaids
Best Foreign Language Film: A Separation
Best Documentary Feature: George Harrison: Living in the Material World
Best Song: Life's a Happy Song (Bret McKenzie, The Muppets)
Best Score: The Artist
Joel Siegel Award: Sean Penn
Music + Film Award: Martin Scorsese.