Among the group's other honors, the 1950s cult drama "The Master" earned four awards: best director for Paul Thomas Anderson, best actor for Joaquin Phoenix, supporting actress for Amy Adams and production design for David Crank and Jack Fisk.
"The Master" also was chosen as best-picture runner-up. The film stars Phoenix as a volatile World War II veteran who comes under the sway of a charismatic cult leader. Adams co-stars as the cult leader's tough-minded wife.
"Amour" star Emmanuelle Riva, who plays an elderly, ailing woman being cared for by her husband, shared the best-actress honor in a tie with Jennifer Lawrence of the lost-soul romance "Silver Linings Playbook."
Newcomer Dwight Henry was chosen as supporting actor for the low-budget critical darling "Beasts of the Southern Wild." The film's writer-director, Benh Zeitlin, received the group's New Generation Award and shared the prize for best music score with composing partner Dan Romer.
Directed by Michael Haneke, "Amour" is Austria's entry for the foreign-language Oscar and won the top honor at the Cannes Film Festival in May.
The choice by the Los Angeles critics marked a move away from bigger Hollywood productions that the group favored the last two years when it named George Clooney's "The Descendants" as best film of 2011 and David Fincher's "The Social Network" as tops for 2010.
The Los Angeles critics' picks came days after both the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Board of Review chose Kathryn Bigelow's Osama bin Laden manhunt docudrama "Zero Dark Thirty" as the best film of the year.
Bigelow, who dominated the 2009 Los Angeles critics awards with best-picture and director wins for "The Hurt Locker," was chosen this time as directing runner-up for "Zero Dark Thirty."
"The Hurt Locker" went on to a best-picture win at the Oscars and made Bigelow the first woman ever to earn the best-director Oscar. Bigelow is considered a potential Oscar favorite again this time around with "Zero Dark Thirty."
Shut out at the LA critics honors was Steven Spielberg's Civil War epic "Lincoln."
Runners-up for the acting honors: Denis Levant of "Holy Motors," best actor; Christoph Waltz of "Django Unchained," supporting actor; and Anne Hathaway of "Les Miserables" and "The Dark Knight Rises," supporting actress. The French film "Holy Motors" also was named best foreign-language film, with Israel's "Footnote" named runner-up.
Next up on Hollywood's awards calendar are the Screen Actors Guild nominations Wednesday and Golden Globe nominations Thursday. Oscar nominations follow on Jan. 10.
The Los Angeles group named Tim Burton's dead-dog tale "Frankenweenie" best animated film. Don Hertzfeldt's "It's Such a Beautiful Day" was runner-up.
The documentary prize went to "The Gatekeepers," director Dror Moreh's exploration of intelligence operations by Israel's Shin Bet security agency. The runner-up was "Searching for Sugar Man," Malik Bendjelloul's portrait of obscure 1970s singer-songwriter Rodriguez.
Chris Terrio earned the screenplay honor for Ben Affleck's Iran hostage-crisis thriller "Argo." David O. Russell was the screenplay runner-up for "Silver Linings Playbook."
The critics group gave its first-ever prize for film editing to Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg for "Zero Dark Thirty." Goldenberg also was the editing runner-up for "Argo."
Among other honors Sunday:
- Music score runner-up: Jonny Greenwood, "The Master."
- Cinematography: Roger Deakins, "Skyfall." Runner-up: Mihai Malaimare Jr., "The Master."
- Production design runner-up: Adam Stockhausen, "Moonrise Kingdom."
- Independent experimental film: "Leviathan."