Family drama The Descendants and political saga The Ides of March, will vie for the prize, along with silent film The Artist and comedy Bridesmaids.
Other nominees in the motion picture category include Steven Spielberg’s take on the stage hit War Horse and Martin Scorsese’s 3D family film Hugo.
The awards will be handed out on 21 January in Los Angeles.
The ceremony takes place two days after the US Writers Guild honours its chosen films.
Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life, starring Sean Penn and Brad Pitt, was notably absent from the nominations list.
The movie has notched up several nods at other prestigious award ceremonies and, in May, it was named the winner of the Palme d’Or prize at the Cannes Film Festival.
Spielberg was also nominated for the animation movie The Adventures of Tintin, along with Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson, who also produced the film.
Cars 2, Kung Fu Panda 2, Puss In Boots and Rango will also compete in the animation category.
That list is completed with Too Big To Fail and The Kennedys.
In the theatrical documentary category, Senna – which tells the story of the life of the late F1 world champion Ayrton Senna, is up against Bill Cunningham New York, Project Nim, The Union and Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest were nominated.