The Artist takes place in the late 1920s as silent cinema is losing ground to the rise of talking pictures.
It focuses on the story of a declining male film star, played by Jean Dujardin, and a rising actress played by Bérénice Bejo.
The black and white film was written and directed by Michel Hazanavicius who had difficulty getting the financial backing for making a silent film.
The film eventually found funding from a collection of French production companies, including France 3 Cinéma and Canal+.
The film also features better known American talent John Goodman, who starred for ten years in the hit sitcom Roseanne as well as films including The Big Lebowski and Raising Arizona.
It was released on November 25th in the United States, six weeks after its French release.
The New York Film Critics Circle is often a good predictor of likely Oscar successes. Columnist Anne Thompson of the blog Thompson on Hollywood said the award put the film "at the front of the pack. There's a ripple effect. Now other awards will pay attention."
Critical reaction has been extremely positive, with Time magazine saying it was a "zesty romance to leave audiences glowing."
Chairman of the Critics Circle, John Anderson, said the film was a "celebration of cinema."
"It's clever and it's upbeat and all that, but it's really about the movies. Of course, that's going to strike a chord among critics."
Nominations for the 84th Academy Awards will take place on February 26th, with nominations due to be announced on January 24th.