Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster biopic Oppenheimer dominated the 81st Golden Globes, winning five awards, including best drama, while Yorgos Lanthimos’ Frankenstein riff Poor Things pulled off an upset victor over Barbie to triumph in the best comedy or musical category.

If awards season has been building toward a second match-up of Barbenheimer, this round went to Oppenheimer. The film also won Best Director for Nolan, Best Drama Actor for Cillian Murphy, Supporting Actor for Robert Downey Jr and Ludwig Göransson’s score.

“I don’t think it was a no-brainer by any stretch of the imagination to make a three-hour talky movie — R-rated, by the way — about one of the darkest developments in our history,” said producer Emma Thomas, accepting the night’s final award and thanking Universal chief Donna Langley.

Along with best comedy or musical, Poor Things also won for Emma Stone’s performance as Bella, a Victorian-era woman experiencing a surreal sexual awakening.

“I see this as a rom-com,” said Stone. “But in the sense that Bella falls in love with life itself rather than a person. She accepts the good and the bad in equal measure, and that really made me look at life differently.”

Lily Gladstone won best actress in a dramatic film for Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon. Gladstone, who began her speech speaking the language of her native tribe, Blackfeet Nation, is the first Indigenous winner in the category.

“This is a historic win,” said Gladstone. “It doesn’t just belong to me.”

The Globes were in their ninth decade but facing a new and uncertain chapter. After a tumultuous few years of scandal, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association was dissolved, leaving a new Globes, on a new network (CBS), to try to regain its perch as the third biggest award show of the year, after the Oscars and Grammys. Even the menu (sushi from Nobu) was remade.

“Golden Globes journalists, thank you for changing your game, therefore changing your name,” said Downey in his acceptance speech.

Robert Downey Jr. poses in the press room with the award for best performance by an actor in a supporting role in any motion pictureRobert Downey Jr. poses in the press room with the award for best performance by an actor in a supporting role in any motion picture

It got off to a rocky start. Host Jo Koy took the stage at the Beverly Hilton International Ballroom in Beverly Hills, California. The Filipino American stand-up hit on some expected topics: Ozempic, Meryl Streep’s knack for winning awards and the long-running Oppenheimer. (“I needed another hour.”)

After one joke flubbed, Koy, who was named host after some bigger names reportedly passed, also noted how fast he was thrust into the job.

“Yo, I got the gig 10 days ago. You want a perfect monologue?” said Koy. “I wrote some of these, and they’re the ones you’re laughing at.”

Hi Barbie!

Margot Robbie at the 2024 Golden Globes

Downey’s win, his third Globe, denied one to “Kenergy”. Ryan Gosling had been seen as his stiffest competition, just one of the many head-to-head contests between Oppenheimer and Greta Gerwig’s Barbie. The filmmakers faced each other in the best director category, where Nolan triumphed.

It was two hours before Barbie, the year’s biggest hit with more than NZ$2.2 billion in ticket sales, won an award Sunday. Billie Eilish’s What Was I Made For? took the best song, and swiftly after, Barbie took the Globes’ new honour for “cinematic and box office achievement”. Some thought that award might go to Taylor Swift, whose Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour also set box-office records. Swift, though, remains win-less in five Globe nods.

Finneas, left, and Billie Eilish pose in the press room with the award for best original song

Margot Robbie, star and producer of Barbie, accepted the award in a pink gown modelle after 1977’s Superstar Barbie.

“We’d like to dedicate this to every single person on the planet who dressed up and went to the greatest place on Earth: the movie theatres,” said Robbie

Barbie and Oppenheimer, two blockbusters brought together by a common release date, also faced off in the best screenplay category. But in an upset, Justine Triet and Arthur Harari won the script for the French courtroom drama Anatomy of a Fall. Later, Triet’s film picked up best international film, too.

Though the Globes have no direct correlation with the Academy Awards, they can boost campaigns at a crucial juncture. Oscar nomination voting starts Thursday, and the twin sensations of Barbenheimer remain frontrunners.

Other contenders loom, though, like Poor Things and The Holdovers.

Paul Giamatti and Da’Vine Joy Randolph both won for Alexander Payne’s The Holdovers. Giamatti, reuniting with Payne two decades after Sideways, won best actor, and Randolph won for her supporting performance as a grieving woman in the 1970s-set boarding school drama.

“Oh, Mary, you have changed my life,” Randolph said of her character. “You have made me feel seen in so many ways that I have never imagined.”

Hayao Miyazaki’s The Boy and the Heron won best-animated film, an upset over Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.

Succession and The Bear lead TV winners

The final season of Succession cleaned up on the television side. It won Best Drama Series for the third time, a mark that ties a record set by Mad Men and The X-Files. Three stars from the HBO series also won: Matt Macfadyen, Sarah Snook and Kieran Culkin.

“It is bittersweet, but things like this make it rather sweeter,” said Succession creator Jesse Armstrong.

Hulu’s The Bear also came away with a trio of awards, including Best Comedy Series. Jeremy Allen White won for the second time, but this time he had company. Ayo Edebiri won her first Globe for her leading performance in the Hulu show’s second season. She thanked the assistants of her agents and managers.

Ayo Edebiri and Jeremy Allen White both won big in their categories for their performances in The bear.

“To the people who answer my emails, you’re the real ones,” said Edebiri.

Beef won three awards: best limited series as well as acting awards for Ali Wong and Steven Yeun.

The Globes also added a new stand-up special award. That went, surprisingly, to Ricky Gervais, who didn’t attend the show he so often hosted. Some expected Chris Rock to win for “Selective Outrage”, his stand-up response to the Will Smith slap.