'Mystic River' is at the top of the US National Board of Review's (NBR) list of the best films of 2003.
This is the first major prize of the film award season that culminates with the Oscars in February.
The drama, directed by Clint Eastwood, was at number one ahead of films such as 'The Last Samurai', 'The Station Agent', '21 Grams' and 'House of Sand and Fog'.
'Mystic River' star Sean Penn who is also in '21 Grams' took Best Actor and the board named Diane Keaton as Best Actress for 'Something's Gotta Give'.
The NBR will award the winners at a ceremony on 13 January in New York.