The 54-year-old took home the best actor award for his performance in The Whale, which, he said, was about “finding the light in a dark place”.
Fraser has been hotly tipped for several major awards for his role in the film, but the CCA win is his first.
Becoming visibly emotional onstage as he collected the award, he praised his castmates Hong Chau and Sadie Sink, while also singling out The Whale’s director Darren Aronofsky.
Critics Choice Awards 2023
“This movie, The Whale, is about love. It’s about redemption. It’s about finding the light in a dark place,” he said.
“And I’m so lucky to have worked with an ensemble that is incredible.”
Addressing Aronofsky, he continued: “I was in the wilderness and probably should have left the trail of breadcrumbs.
“But you found me, and like all the best directors you merely just showed me where I needed to be.”
The Whale follows the story of Fraser’s morbidly obese English teacher Charlie as he tries to reconnect with his estranged daughter, played by Sink.
The actor added “To those like Charlie, who I played in this, if you in anyway struggle with obesity, if you find yourself in a very dark sea…
“…I want you to know that it’s good to have the strength to just go to the light, Good things will happen.”
Fraser’s big win came on an extremely disappointing night for both British and Irish talent, which was snubbed in all major categories.
Martin McDonagh’s The Banshees Of Inisherin, which had picked up nine CCA nominations, came away empty-handed.
Elsewhere, it was a successful night for sci-fi thriller Everything Everywhere All At Once, which had led the CCA’s film contenders with 14 nominations.
The film – starring Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan and James Hong – won best picture overall, as well as the best director accolade for filmmakers Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert.
The pair thanked fellow directors, their families and their cast as they collected the award, with Kwan also becoming emotional as he told audiences: “Growing up I did not think I was going to ever become anything.
“I had no idea I had something to offer the world and I just need to thank the people who turned me into the man I am now and turned me into the director I am today, my mother.
“Maybe the first Asian American immigrant mother tell them tell their son to go to film school.”
Quan maintained his winning streak too, as he took home the Critics Choice award for best supporting actor, telling audiences: “I’m going to try real hard to not cry tonight”.
In the best actress category, Cate Blanchett won, though she described the accolade as “arbitrary”, and praised the work of all other women in the industry.
“This best actress, I mean it is extremely arbitrary considering how many extraordinary performances there have been by women not only in this room,” she said.
“You don’t stand here, unless you’re dancing with a director who asks you to do something that you think is impossible and you’re terrified to do.
“So thank you, Todd (Field) for the opportunity, for your trust, for the writing and for the for the extraordinary creative conversation.”
Taylor Swift, Rihanna and Lady Gaga all lost out again to Naatu Naatu, from the film RRR, which won the Critics Choice award for best song.
In the television categories US shows Abbott Elementary and Better Call Saul dominated with victories for best series for comedy and drama respectively, as well as a slew of other awards.
Special honours were given to Jeff Bridges, who received the lifetime achievement award, and Janelle Monae, who was given the SeeHer award, which recognises honours a woman who advocates for gender equality, portrays characters with authenticity, defies stereotypes and pushes boundaries.
The CCA, the second major ceremony of the awards show season, is historically the most accurate predictor of Academy Award nominations, which are due to be announced on January 24.