British-born Daniel Day-Lewis becomes the first man to win best actor three times, while Argo wins best picture.
Day-Lewis was rewarded for his role in Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, catapulting him above some of the most revered Hollywood icons including Dustin Hoffman and Marlon Brando who have both won best actor twice.
He won the best actor Oscar previously for My Left Foot and There Will Be Blood.
Other big winners included Anne Hathaway, named best supporting actress for her role in Les Miserables and Jennifer Lawrence who won best actress.
Christopher Plummer presented the Oscar for best supporting actress to Hathaway. Referring to her character Fantine, who was forced into prostitution, an emotionally-moved Hathaway said she hoped for a future in which “the misfortunes of Fantine will only be found in stories and nevermore in real life”.
Ang Lee was named best director for Life Of Pi, which scooped two other awards, while Adele triumphed in the best original song category for her Bond theme Skyfall. It came after she had performed the song on stage at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood – a debut live performance of the song.
There were also wins for Django Unchained with Christoph Waltz named best supporting actor, while director Quentin Tarantino picked up the Oscar for original screenplay telling his fellow writers: “You guys are so wonderful. Peace out.” It was a somewhat more subdued announcement than his interview with Channel 4 News earlier this year.
Searching for Sugar Man, a Swedish-British production about a lost relic of the American folk scene, won best documentary. The award for best animated short film went to Disney’s Paperman while Brave – a cartoon set in the Scottish Highlands featuring the voices of Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson and Julie Walters – won best animated feature film.
The award for costume design went to Jacqueline Durran for Anna Karenina. The British designer said the win was “completely overwhelming” and paid tribute to her children who were “fast asleep in England”.
There was another UK win when the Oscar for makeup and hairstyling was won by Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell for Les Miserables.
The full list of Oscar winners
Actor in a Leading Role:
Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln
Actor in a Supporting Role:
Christoph Waltz in Django Unchained
Actress in a Leading Role:
Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook
Actress in a Supporting Role:
Anne Hathaway in Les Miserables
Ang Lee for Life Of Pi
Music (Original Score):
Mychael Danna for Life Of Pi
Music (Original Song):
Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth for Skyfall from Skyfall
Animated Feature Film:
Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman for Brave
Claudio Miranda for Life Of Pi
Jacqueline Durran for Anna Karenina
Malik Bendjelloul and Simon Chinn for Searching For Sugar Man
Documentary Short Subject:
Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine for Inocente
William Goldenberg for Argo
Foreign Language Film:
Makeup and Hairstyling:
Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell for Les Miserables
Animated Sort Film:
John Kahrs for Paperman
Live Action Short Film:
Shawn Christensen for Curfew
Skyfall and Zero Dark Thirty
Life Of Pi
Chris Terrio for Argo
Quentin Tarantino for Django Unchained