Steve McQueen has gained his first directors guild nomination for his grim historic saga 12 Years a Slave, securing the British director's place as a top contender for an Academy Award.
Other first-time nominees were Alfonso Cuaron for his lost-in-space odyssey Gravity, and Paul Greengrass for his Somali pirate thriller Captain Phillips.
Past nominee David O. Russell received a bid for his con-artist tale American Hustle. He was nominated in 2010 for his boxing drama The Fighter.
Martin Scorsese earned his 11th nomination for his high-finance extravaganza, The Wolf of Wall Street. Scorsese won a Directors Guild of America award in 2006 for the crime tale The Departed and again in 2010 for his work on HBO's Boardwalk Empire.
Scorsese was honoured with the DGA lifetime achievement award in 2003.
If McQueen wins this year for 12 Years a Slave, he would become the first black director to earn the guild's feature film accolade.
''To be included in such an amazing group of filmmakers and also to be honored by my peers makes me feel very humble and proud,'' he said in a statement.
John Singleton was the first black director to be nominated for the award for Boyz n the Hood in 1991, and Lee Daniels was nominated in 2009 for Precious.
In 2013, the guild elected TV director Paris Barclay as its first African-American, openly gay president.
Last month, McQueen was named best director by the New York Film Critics Circle for 12 Years a Slave. The film has been nominated for four Screen Actors Guild awards and seven Golden Globes.
Gravity, Captain Phillips and American Hustle also received Globe and SAG bids. The Wolf of Wall Street made the Globe list.
The winner of the DGA award usually goes on to win the directing statuette at the Oscars. Nominations for those awards will be announced on January 16.
In the 65-year history of the DGA awards, the winner has failed to also take home the best director Oscar only seven times. Ben Affleck won the guild award last year for his work on Argo but was denied a best director nomination at the Oscars.
However, like many DGA winners, Argo went on to win the best-picture prize at the Oscars.
Sunday's Golden Globes will offer a better indicator of which film will lead the best picture category at the 86th Academy Awards. Additional award shows will roll out in late January and February leading to Hollywood's biggest night on March 2.
Left off this year's list by the directors guild were past nominees Lee Daniels for his civil rights, White House servant story Lee Daniels' the Butler; Alexander Payne for his small-town, father-son road trip comedy Nebraska; and Spike Jonze for his futuristic digital romance Her.
Also snubbed were past winners Woody Allen for his fallen socialite tale Blue Jasmine and Joel and Ethan Coen for their folk scene-focused dark comedy Inside Llewyn Davis.
Winners of the 66th annual awards will be announced at a dinner in Los Angeles on January 25. Jane Lynch will host.