The movie bested leading Academy Awards contenders including “Call Me by Your Name,” “Dunkirk,” “Get Out,” “I, Tonya” and “Lady Bird.”
In a crowded field, it also saw off “The Big Sick,” “Molly’s Game,” “The Post,” “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” and “Wonder Woman.”
The 1960s-set fairytale about a mute government laboratory janitor falling in love with a merman-like creature won best director for Del Toro at the Golden Globes, considered a dry-run for the Oscars.
It also has 12 nominations for February’s BAFTAs, Britain’s version of the Oscars, and is expected to do well when nominees for the actual Academy Awards are announced on Tuesday.
The 53-year-old filmmaker, who co-produced alongside J. Miles Dale, was not there to pick up his trophy due to having gone to his sick father’s bedside in Mexico.
In one of the ceremony’s highlights, “Get Out” director and producer Jordan Peele was recognized for making a film that raises awareness of social issues and talked about “the sunken place,” the term used for the hypnotic, brainwashed state that traps victims in his movie.
“The sunken place is the system that silences the voice of women, minorities, and of other people,” he said in politically charged speech condemning President Donald Trump for derogatory comments about Haiti, Africa and black football stars kneeling during the national anthem.
“Every day there is proof that we are in the sunken place,” he added.
“Coco” — Pixar’s love letter to Mexico based on the country’s Day of the Dead festival — won best animated picture, the first prize of the night handed out at the Beverly Hilton.
“Now is the time for more diversity in our culture and in our world,” said producer Darla K. Anderson, dedicating the award to the people of Mexico.
In the TV section, Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” won best television drama, while fellow internet streaming service Amazon bagged best episodic comedy for “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”
“The Handmaid’s Tale,” based on Margaret Atwood’s dystopian 1985 novel of the same name, has been the darling of recent awards ceremonies, winning eight Emmys and two Golden Globes.
The PGA has boasted a solid record of giving top honors to movies that go on to earn best picture honors at the Oscars.
The trend has been bucked somewhat recently, however, with last year’s best film award going to “La La Land,” which lost out to “Moonlight” at the Oscars.
Financial crisis comedy “The Big Short” took the top prize at 2016’s PGAs, but lost out to “Spotlight” for the Academy Award.
The Oscars ceremony is staged on March 4, hosted by late night funnyman Jimmy Kimmel.