Mexico's Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and Britain's Ridley Scott topped the list of nominees for the Directors Guild of America (DGA) award -- a strong indicator of Oscar hopes.
Inarritu was nominated for revenge thriller "The Revenant" and Scott for space hit "The Martian", about an astronaut stranded on Mars -- two films seen as top contenders for Academy Awards glory on February 28.
This marks the fourth nomination for both directors by the DGA. Inarritu won the award last year for dark comedy "Birdman", for which he also won an Oscar.
The 52-year-old Mexican filmmaker won the Golden Globe for best director on Sunday for "The Revenant", about 19th century fur trapper Hugh Glass, who is played by another Oscar hopeful, Leonardo DiCaprio.
The film took three prizes overall including best motion picture drama and best actor for DiCaprio.
Should Inarritu win the DGA award again this year, he would be the first director in the Guild's history with back-to-back wins.
"The Martian", starring Matt Damon, won two awards at the Golden Globes on Sunday -- best comedy film and best actor in a comedy.
The 78-year-old Scott has however never triumphed at the DGA awards or at the Oscars.
Also nominated for a DGA award were Tom McCarthy for "Spotlight", about Boston Globe reporters who uncovered sexual abuse in the Catholic Church; Adam McKay for "The Big Short", on the subprime mortgage crisis; and George Miller for dystopian action movie "Mad Max: Fury Road".
The DGA awards are to be handed out on February 6. The DGA short list is considered a Oscars bellwether. The Academy Award nominations will be announced on Thursday.