Sci-fi thriller Gravity blew the Oscars opposition into orbit when it picked up seven Academy Awards including Best Director for Alfonso Cuarón.
The British-made movie, which stars Sandra Bullock as an astronaut stranded in space, landed technical awards for visual effects, original score, film editing, cinematography, sound editing and sound mixing.
However, the biggest prize of the night - the Best Picture Oscar - went to the hard-hitting slavery drama 12 Years A Slave, which also picked up awards for Best Supporting Actress Lupita Nyong'o and John Ridley's Best Adapted Screenplay.
Dallas Buyers Club - the story of a homophobe Aids victim who becomes a campaigner against HIV discrimination, was another winner with Matthew McConaughey proclaimed as Best Actor and his co-star Jared Leto as Best Supporting Actor.
Cate Blanchett won Best Actress for her performance in Blue Jasmine as a New York socialite who moves to San Francisco to live with her sister - played by British best supporting actress nominee Sally Hawkins - when her life falls apart.
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"I want to share this with all of the people who made this happen," Gravity's London-based, Mexican director Cuaron told the audience at the Dolby Theatre.
"My amazing son and co-writer, Jonas Cuaron. Sandra Bullock. Sandy, you're 'Gravity'. You are the soul, the heart of the film."
"Like any other human endeavour, making a film can be a transformative experience. And I want to think Gravity because for many of us involved in this film it was definitely a transformative experience.
It's good because it took so long that if not it would be a waste of time. What really sucks is that for a lot of these people that transformation was wisdom, but for me it was just the colour of my hair."
12 Years A Slave's Steve McQueen is the first black director to helm a film named Best Picture and dedicated his triumph to "everyone who has endured slavery" and the 21 million still enslaved today.
"The last word - everyone deserves not just to survive but to live," he said. "This is the most important legacy of Solomon Northup [the slave played by Chiwetel Ejiofor]."
Nyong'o, who plays victimised slave Patsey, thanked the Academy for her award and added: "It doesn't escape me for one moment that so much joy in my life is thanks to so much pain in someone else's, and so I want to salute the spirit of Patsey, for her guidance."
McConaughey, whose rise as a Hollywood leading light has been dubbed "The McConaissance", thanked his late father, God, the Academy, his fellow nominees and their "impeccable" performances, co-stars Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner, and the film's director Jean-Marc Vallee before finishing with his line from the movie Dazed And Confused, "alright, alright, alright'.
Leto, who picked up Best Supporting Actor for his poignant portrait of a Aids-infected drag queen in Dallas Buyers Club, paid tribute to his mother, Ukraine and Venezuela plus Aids victims across the world.
Blanchett, who previously won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in The Aviator in 2004, jokingly told the audience: "Sit down, you're too old to be standing."
She thanked writer-director Woody Allen for the screenplay and pointed out that those who think female-led films are a niche market "...they are not. Audiences want to see them and they earn money."
An unexpected winner on the night was Baz Luhrmann's flamboyant The Great Gatsby, which picked up two Academy Awards for Production Design and Costume Design.
Philomena's British writing hopefuls Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope were pipped in the race for Best Adapted Screenplay by 12 Years A Slave's John Ridley.
Spike Jonze landed the Best Original Screenplay gong for Her, his first film as sole writer and director which stars Joaquin Phoenix as a loner who falls in love with his computer operating system, voiced by Scarlett Johansson.
British pride was restored in the main music category as Gravity's Nottingham-born composer Steven Price took the award for Best Original Score.