"Bodyguards and Assassins" also clinched best director for Hong Kong filmmaker Teddy Chen.
"Echoes of the Rainbow," a nostalgic look back at 1960s Hong Kong, won best script for director Alex Law. Veteran Simon Yam, who plays a quiet, hardworking cobbler in the movie, was named best actor at Sunday's ceremony.
Wai Ying-hung was crowned best actress for portraying a single mother whose son faces rape charges in "At the End of Daybreak."
Best supporting actor went to Nicholas Tse, who was a rickshaw driver in "Bodyguards and Assassins." Michelle Ye won best supporting actress for "Accident," in which she is part of a criminal team that masquerades murders as accidents.
Producer Huang Jianxin hailed "Bodyguards and Assassins" as a successful Hong Kong-China co-production that packages a Hong Kong story for mainland audiences at a time when the two industries are increasingly integrated. The fusing of the two film cultures has sometimes made for bland kung fu and historical epics that have appalled critics.
Set in 1906 Hong Kong, Chen's movie is about a scrappy team of volunteers who shepherd revolutionary Sun Yat-sen to a key meeting with his allies, fending off scores of assassins dispatched by the Chinese empress. It was a big box office hit in the mainland, earning 300 million Chinese yuan ($44 million).
"This movie is based on Hong Kong subject matter. It's a Hong Kong story. But it was embraced and praised by mainland audiences ... so I want to say co-productions can be well done, as long as we work hard at them and earn the trust of the audience," Huang said.
While "Bodyguards and Assassins" was an example of Hong Kong-mainland co-operation, "Echoes of the Rainbow" endeared fans with a strictly local flavor. Law used his childhood memories to tell the touching story of cobbler and wife struggling to make ends meet while caring for a cancer-stricken son in British-ruled Hong Kong. The family drama became a huge source of local pride after winning the Crystal Bear for youth-themed movies at the Berlin International Film Festival earlier this year.
Law thanked Yam and co-star Sandra Ng for taking a pay cut to help him tell a deeply personal story.
"I could not afford you at all, but you helped me realize this dream," Law said.
"Echoes of the Rainbow" won best new actor for Aarif Lee, who also performed the movie's theme song - named best original song.
Yam demonstrated his versatility by being nominated for two films in the best actor category. He also played a violent husband who murders his whole family in Ann Hui's "Night and Fog."
Comparing himself to a Hong Kong snack, Yam thanked the filmmakers behind both of this nominated performances, saying," This pineapple bun can create a murder, but the same pineapple bun can also produce a moving story."
Veteran Hong Kong actress Wai completed a clean sweep of the awards season. Her performance in "At the End of Daybreak" also earned her acting honors at Taiwan's Golden Horse Awards last year and at the recent Asian Film Awards. It also marked a remarkable comeback for Wai, who struggled with a career downturn and depression.
"I'm not ashamed to tell you that I had at one point given up on my life. I really couldn't see how my future would pan out. But now I'm very confident. I know I belong to the movies. I know I belong to acting," a tearful Wai said.
Organizers observed a moment of silence in honor of the victims of the massive earthquake in China's western Qinghai province last week.
A group of young boys paid tribute to late kung fu star Bruce Lee ahead of what would have been his 70th birthday on Nov. 27 by donning his trademark yellow jumpsuit and performing with nunchakus - two-stick weapons he popularized in the West.
Director and martial arts choreographer Lau Kar-leung, whose credits include "The 36th Chamber of Shaolin" and "Drunken Master II," was presented with the lifetime achievement award.