The Oscar-tipped movie was named best comedy and won additional prizes for lead actor Jean Dujardin and its score.
The Descendants was named best film drama and won a best actor prize for its star George Clooney.
Other lead actor awards went to Meryl Streep for The Iron Lady and Michelle Williams for My Week with Marilyn.
Streep, who plays Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady, thanked “everyone in England who let me come over there and trample over their history”.
Williams, recognised for her portrayal of Marilyn Monroe, thanked the Globes for “putting in my hand the same award you put in Marilyn’s hand more than 50 years ago”.
Martin Scorsese was named best director for Hugo, a family film that marked his first 3D feature, while Steven Spielberg received the animated feature prize for The Adventures of Tintin.
Veteran actor Christopher Plummer won the evening’s first award for his supporting role in Beginners.
The female equivalent went to Octavia Spencer for her role as a domestic servant in The Help.
Pop star Madonna was recognised for Masterpiece, a song she wrote for her historical drama W.E.
Iran’s A Separation received the award for best foreign language film, while Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris won best screenplay.
It was a good night for British talent in the television categories, which saw ITV1 period drama Downton Abbey named best mini-series.
“How fabulous this is,” said series creator Julian Fellowes. “The whole Downton Abbey adventure has been an extraordinary one, like spotting a promising child and waking up to find they won the Olympics.”
Britain’s Idris Elba collected a best actor prize for BBC One crime drama Luther, while Kate Winslet was recognised for HBO mini-series Mildred Pierce.
Amidst the celebration and back-slapping, though, a poignant note was struck by Peter Dinklage as he picked up a supporting actor prize for Game of Thrones.
The US actor, who has dwarfism, ended his speech by paying tribute to Martin Henderson, a man with restricted growth from Somerset.
The 37-year-old was left with serious back injuries after being picked up and dropped on the ground outside a pub last October.
Gervais, criticised last year with his sharp-tongued presenting style, opened the ceremony with a waspish monologue.
Yet while he was briefly silenced for swearing, his barbs were not as cutting as they were 12 months ago.
The 50-year-old began the night by telling the star-studded audience the Globes were “just like the Oscars… without all that esteem”.
The event, he continued, was to the Oscars “what [reality TV star] Kim Kardashian is to [Duchess of Cambridge] Kate Middleton – a bit louder, a bit trashier [and] a bit drunker.”
The Office co-creator said he had been given strict instructions by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), organisers of the ceremony.
“The Hollywood Foreign Press has warned me that if I insult anybody… they’ll definitely have me back next year,” he joked.
Johnny Depp, Dame Helen Mirren and Colin Firth were a few of the stars who received a gentle ribbing over the course of the evening.
Yet the comedian got as good as he gave later when he introduced Madonna with a reference to her song Like a Virgin.
“If I’m like a virgin, Ricky, why don’t you come over here and do something about it,” joked the pop star turned director.