The black-and-white nod to Hollywood's silent movie era also won the award for Best Score.
The critics group honored Martin Scorsese as Best Director for his work on "Hugo," which also picked up the prize for Best Art Direction.
"In honoring both 'The Artist' and 'Hugo,' WAFCA is spotlighting two films that are love letters to the film industry that we all love so well," WAFCA President Tim Gordon said in a statement.
George Clooney won the Best Actor award for his performance in "The Descendants" and Michelle Williams was named Best Actress for her portrayal of Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe in "My Week with Marilyn."
"The Descendants" won the award for Best Adapted Screenplay, while "50/50" snagged the Best Original Screenplay honor.
Albert Brooks won Best Supporting Actor for his work in "Drive" and Octavia Spencer earned the Best Supporting Actress prize for her performance in "The Help." The Best Acting Ensemble award went to the cast of "Bridesmaids."
"This is WAFCA's 10th anniversary, and we are very proud of the choices that our membership made," Gordon said. "There were no sweeps this year. No ties. Our list highlights both the exceptional films nominated and the distinct make-up of our group."