LONDON (Reuters) - Director James Cameron's 3D blockbuster fantasy film "Avatar" tied with British drama "An Education" and Iraq war movie "The Hurt Locker" with eight nominations each at the BAFTAs, Britain's main film awards.
They were closely followed by extra-terrestrial film "District 9" with seven nominations. Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds" starring Brad Pitt and "Up in the Air" with George Clooney each received six nominations, organizers said on Thursday.
The BAFTAs are awarded on February 21.
Avatar, whose 3-D effects have wowed critics and fans and helped it earn $1.6 billion at global box offices, claimed best film, cinematography, editing, music, production design, sound and special visual effects. Cameron, whose "Titanic" is the world's highest-grossing film, was nominated for director.
Biopic "Coco Before Chanel," "Nowhere Boy," "Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire" and animated film "Up" also received four nominations apiece.
District 9, director Neill Blomkamp's tale about extraterrestrials forced to live in slum-like conditions on Earth, won Blomkamp a director nomination and others for cinematography, adapted screenplay, editing, production design, sound and special visual effects.
Avatar led nominations for best film, followed by British film An Education, The Hurt Locker, Precious and Up in the Air.
Cameron and Blomkamp will contend for a director BAFTA award with "Pulp Fiction" filmmaker Tarantino, Lone Scherfig (An Education), and Kathryn Bigelow, whose The Hurt Locker also counts nominations for best film and leading actor.
Nominations for leading actor pitted Hollywood heartthrob George Clooney for his role as the lovelorn business traveler in Up in the Air against Jeff Bridges as the broken-down, country music singer in "Crazy Heart," Colin Firth in "A Single Man," Jeremy Renner's portrayal of SSgt. William James in The Hurt Locker and Andy Serkis as Punk rocker Ian Dury in "Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll."
Meryl Streep was the biggest Hollywood name nominated for leading actress, followed by "Amelie" actress Audrey Tautou for her portrayal of the fashion doyenne Coco Chanel before she created her atelier.
Carey Mulligan was nominated for An Education and Saoirse Ronan for director Peter Jackson's screen adaptation of Alice Sebold's novel "The Lovely Bones."
The BAFTA nominations come as the awards season gets into full swing, although they are an unreliable guide to the movie world's biggest prize, the Academy Awards.
The Golden Globes were awarded on January 17, Oscar nominations are announced on February 2 ahead of the March 7 ceremony and the BAFTAs in a month's time. Avatar and "The Hangover" were among the big winners at the Globes.
Editing by Steve Addison