Ms Thompson said not totally convincingly last night that this was as important as an Oscar because it was British.
She would be taking her mother to the Oscars ceremony in the United States, she said, as her husband, Kenneth Branagh, will be playing Hamlet for the Royal Shakespeare Company on the night. Mr Branagh last night won a BAFTA Special Achievement award for his contribution to film.
There was expected success for Absolutely Fabulous, Jennifer Saunders' BBC comedy which won the award for Best TV comedy, beating off the fancied One Foot in the Grave. Joanna Lumley won the award for Best Light Entertainment performance for her role in Absolutely Fabulous.
Best TV Acting performances went to John Thaw for Inspector Morse and Helen Mirren for Prime Suspect 2. The BBC adaptation of The Borrowers was judged best children's fiction programme.
Among the other prinicipal awards was the Omnibus programme on the novelist Angela Carter as Best Arts programme, and Noel's House Party for Best Light Entertainment programme.
Dame Maggie Smith won a special achievement award; the Crying Game won the Alexander Korda award for best British film; Miranda Richardson was best supporting film actress for Damage.
The BBC's John Cole won the prestigious Richard Dimbleby award for personal contribution on the screen in factual television.