The film picked up nods for best drama, actresses Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, director Haynes and its score.
Also making out well in the nominations from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association: the comedy "The Big Short," about the 2008 financial crisis; "The Revenant," the Leonardo DiCaprio movie about a 19th-century explorer left for dead; and "Steve Jobs," the Aaron Sorkin-penned drama about the Apple founder. Each received four nominations.
But the sheer number of Globe nominations didn't necessarily establish hard-and-fast front-runners. "The Martian," the hit film about an astronaut stranded on Mars, picked up three nods, but they were big ones: best comedy or musical, star Matt Damon and director Ridley Scott.
The inclusion of "The Martian" in the comedy/musical division was a source of controversy to start with. It will compete against "The Big Short," "Trainwreck," "Joy" and "Spy."
Aside from "Carol," the best drama nominees are "The Revenant," "Spotlight," "Room" and "Mad Max: Fury Road."
Bounty for some, surprises for others
Some Globe nominees woke to find themselves with more than they expected.
Swedish actress Alicia Vikander had a big day. She was nominated for both best actress in a drama for her performance in "The Danish Girl" and best supporting actress as the human-seeming robot in "Ex Machina."
Mark Rylance, who dazzled as spy Rudolf Abel in "Bridge of Spies," earned a nomination for that film performance, as well as a nomination for his performance in the TV miniseries "Wolf Hall."
Amy Schumer picked up a best actress in a comedy nomination for her performance in "Trainwreck." The film, which she co-wrote, also earned a nomination for best comedy or musical.
Sylvester Stallone got a nomination, for "Creed." Will Smith did too (for "Concussion").
"Mad Max: Fury Road," aside from its best drama nomination, also earned a nod for director George Miller -- his first Globe nomination ever.
And "Room," based on Emma Donoghue's novel about a mother and son held captive in a small space, is proving itself the little movie that could in terms of awards season. It picked up nods for best drama, actress Brie Larson and its screenplay.
On the other hand, some films and performers were shut out of key categories.
Steven Spielberg's "Bridge of Spies" earned just one nomination, for Rylance. Spielberg was left out of the best director race, and the film didn't make the cut for best drama.
Spielberg wasn't the only big-name director left off the Globes' list. David O. Russell, who has earned best director nominations in recent years for "American Hustle" and "The Fighter," didn't get a pick for "Joy." Quentin Tarantino ("The Hateful Eight") didn't make the director list, either.
"Steve Jobs" did well by its actors and screenwriter Sorkin, but the film itself was left out of the best drama category.
And "Spotlight" was perhaps too much of an ensemble piece for the Globes. Though the much-lauded film, about a Boston Globe investigative unit looking into a sexual abuse scandal, earned nominations for best drama, best director (Tom McCarthy) and its screenplay, actors such as Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams didn't get Globe recognition for their performances.
Don't cry too much for Ruffalo, however: He picked up a nomination for best actor in a comedy and musical for his performance in "Infinitely Polar Bear."
The Globes are often looked at as a measuring stick for the Academy Awards, though the pool of voters is much smaller -- the 100 or so members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association -- and the number of nominations is doubled in some cases, since there are divisions for drama and comedy/musical.
But if Oscar forecasters are looking to sift through Globe tea leaves, there appear to be few sure things.
"Carol," "Spotlight," "The Martian," "The Revenant" and "Room" will probably make out well when the Oscar nominations are announced January 14. "The Big Short" got a dose of good news, and the "Steve Jobs" actors have been singled out for their performances since the movie's release in early October.
But "Joy," which was ignored by Wednesday's SAG Awards nominations, might find a road to bigger riches difficult. "The Danish Girl" was highlighted for its actors -- both Eddie Redmayne and Vikander got Globe nominations -- but the film and director didn't get nominations.
The Globe honors also highlight an increasing division in Hollywood between big-budget successes and critics' favorites. Among the dramas, only "Mad Max" was an out-and-out blockbuster, though "Spotlight" has been plugging away at the box office. "Room" is building slowly, and "Carol" -- from the marketing-savvy Weinstein Co. -- will be going wider soon. "The Revenant" is due for release December 25.
The comedies have performed better at the box office, though the Academy Awards have been generally unfriendly toward the genre.
Here are the nominees in the film categories:
The nominees for best motion picture drama are "Spotlight," "The Revenant," "Carol," "Mad Max: Fury Road" and "Room."
The nominees for best motion picture comedy or musical are "The Martian," "Trainwreck," "The Big Short," "Joy" and "Spy."
The nominees for best actor in a drama are Bryan Cranston ("Trumbo"), Leonardo DiCaprio ("The Revenant"), Eddie Redmayne ("The Danish Girl"), Michael Fassbender ("Steve Jobs") and Will Smith ("Concussion").
The nominees for best actress in a drama are Cate Blanchett ("Carol"), Brie Larson ("Room"), Rooney Mara ("Carol"), Saoirse Ronan ("Brooklyn") and Alicia Vikander ("The Danish Girl").
The nominees for best actor in a comedy or musical are Matt Damon ("The Martian"), Steve Carell ("The Big Short"), Christian Bale ("The Big Short"), Al Pacino ("Danny Collins") and Mark Ruffalo ("Infinitely Polar Bear").
The nominees for best actress in a comedy or musical are Jennifer Lawrence ("Joy"), Melissa McCarthy ("Spy"), Amy Schumer ("Trainwreck"), Lily Tomlin ("Grandma") and Maggie Smith ("The Lady in the Van").
The nominees for best supporting actor are Mark Rylance ("Bridge of Spies"), Sylvester Stallone ("Creed"), Idris Elba ("Beasts of No Nation"), Paul Dano ("Love and Mercy") and Michael Shannon ("99 Homes").
The nominees for best supporting actress are Jennifer Jason Leigh (" The Hateful Eight"), Helen Mirren ("Trumbo"), Kate Winslet ("Steve Jobs"), Jane Fonda ("Youth") and Alicia Vikander ("Ex Machina").
The nominees for best director are Tom McCarthy ("Spotlight"), Ridley Scott ("The Martian"), Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu ("The Revenant"), George Miller ("Mad Max: Fury Road") and Todd Haynes ("Carol").
The nominees for best screenplay are "Steve Jobs," "Spotlight," "The Hateful Eight," "Room" and "The Big Short."
The nominees for best animated film are "Anomalisa," "The Good Dinosaur," "Inside Out," "The Peanuts Movie" and "Shaun the Sheep Movie."
The Globe also give out honors for television.
The nominees for best TV drama are "Empire," "Game of Thrones," "Mr. Robot," "Narcos" and "Outlander."
The nominees for best TV comedy are "Casual," "Mozart in the Jungle," "Orange Is the New Black," "Silicon Valley," "Transparent" and "Veep."
Lady Gaga was thrilled with her nomination as best actress in a limited series for her performance in "American Horror Story: Hotel." She tweeted that she probably woke her Manhattan neighbors.
And add Hulu to the streaming services getting awards recognition. Its show "Casual," which included a pair of episodes directed by multiple Oscar nominee Jason Reitman ("Up in the Air," "Juno"), earned the service its first-ever Globe nomination.
Washington to get DeMille Award
Denzel Washington will receive the Cecil B. DeMille Award for making an "incredible impact on the world of entertainment."
Not everything went well during the Globes' Thursday announcement. According to tweets from Australian film critic Simon Miraudo, the Globes' official Twitter account kept misidentifying presenter America Ferrera as Gina Rodriguez.
The Globes' tweets have since been deleted.
The Globe nominations conclude the first wave of selections for "awards season," which included Wednesday's SAG Awards nominations, Monday's Grammy nominations and releases of critics' and organizations' best-of lists.
The march continues through the Academy Award nominations January 14, and conclude with the Academy Awards on February 28.
The Golden Globe ceremony, often a raucous affair, will be held January 10 with Ricky Gervais as host. The show will air on NBC.