Michael Haneke (Amour), Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild), Ang Lee (Life of Pi), Steven Spielberg (Lincoln) and David O Russell (Silver Linings Playbook) were among the directors nominated for the Best Director category in the 85th Academy Awards.
'Amour', a searing portrait of old age from Austria's Michael Haneke, was lauded by Hollywood's movie elite, receiving five nominations including best foreign film and - unexpectedly - best picture.
The film stars octogenarian French acting greats Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant as a loving Parisian couple whose world is devastated by the wife's serious illness.
Unflinching and in French, it was an unexpected best-picture nominee, and also received nominations for Haneke's direction, for original screenplay and for the performance of 85-year-old Riva.
'Beasts of the Southern Wild' garnered a nod for its first time director Benh Zeitlin.
Gay cowboy drama "Brokeback Mountain" may have been considered a risky film to make, but director Ang Lee said his new movie, "Life of Pi," a 3D exploration of faith about a boy stranded on a boat with a Bengal tiger, is his riskiest yet.
The film, which was released in U.S. theaters this week, is adapted from Yann Martel's best-selling novel of the same name and was once considered impossible to make.
Oscar-winning Taiwanese director Lee, 58, took on the laborious task of using computer-generated imagery to bring the sensational plot to the big screen, taking a year and a half just to edit the film together.
Steven Spielberg offered a cinematic vision of President Abraham Lincoln's battle to outlaw slavery in 'Lincoln', which had a sneak preview that is already generating early buzz of awards for star Daniel Day-Lewis.