Adams has taken the prize over front-runner Meryl Streep, who had won six previous times.
In the David O. Russell film, Adams plays Sydney Prosser, an American who remakes herself as a member of British society to aid Christian Bale's Irv Rosenfeld in his small-time cons. Things go awry, however, when an FBI agent shows up and begins using the pair as part of a sting.
It is Adams' first Globe; the actress had been nominated four previous times, all since 2008.
Adams is considered to have a decent if not strong shot for an Oscar nomination when the short list is announced Thursday; she had recently also been nominated for a BAFTA for her performance.