LOS ANGELES: French love story The Artist became the first silent film to win the best picture Oscar in 83 years as it scooped five honours at the Academy awards where veteran Meryl Streep was crowned the best actress.
The Academy paid tribute to its own roots by awarding the black and white film, which triumphed over the big names like Martin Scorsese and Woody Allen, to win the top award.
The last silent film to win the best picture Oscar was Wings in 1929.
Director Michel Hazanavicius and Jean Dujardin walked away with the best director and actor trophies.
"I am the happiest director in the world. I want to thank the financier, the crazy person who put money in the movie," said Hazanavicius (44).
The Artist beat eight rivals for the top prize, including Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris and The Help. Scorsese’s Hugo tied up with The Artist by winning five trophies in technical categories on Sunday night.
Streep, the most nominated actress in the Academy history with 17 nods, looked dazzling as she accepted her third Oscar and her first in the last 30 years for her portrayal of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady.
The 62-year-old star previously won for 1979 film Kramer vs Kramer and 1982’s Sophie’s Choice.
"Oh my God! Thank you so much. When they called my name, I had the feeling I could hear half of America going, ‘oh, come on, her again?," Streep said while accepting the statuette to a standing ovation.
"I really understand I’ll never be up here again," Streep said as she thanked her husband, makeup artist and friends.
Dujardin, who plays silent hero George Valentin who fades as talkies make their presence felt in Hollywood, beat George Clooney and Brad Pitt to win the best actor honour.
"Oh! Thank you. I love your country," said 39-year-old Dujardin as he thanked silent movie star Douglas Fairbanks for inspiration.
In a night where first timers and veterans were recognised, Streep became the fifth actor to win three awards, the previous winners being Jack Nicholson, Ingrid Bergman and Walter Brennan. She is now only a step away to match Katharine Hepburn’s four Oscar record.
In the best supporting category, 82-year-old Christopher Plummer won his long overdue Oscar for his portrayal of a father who comes out as gay as he fights cancer in The Beginners.
"You’re only two years older than me, darling. Where have you been all my life? When I first emerged from my mother’s womb I was already rehearsing my Oscar speech," said an emotional Plummer as he held his trophy.
"But it was so long ago… Mercifully I forgot it," added Plummer, who also became the oldest actor to win the Oscar.
Plummer beat Kenneth Branagh in My Week with Marilyn, Jonah Hill in Moneyball, Nick Nolte in Warrior and Max von Sydow in Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.
The best actress award went to Octavia Spencer for her role of a sassy housemaid in The Help. The 39-year-old defeated Berenice Bejo in The Artist, Jessica Chastain in The Help and Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids Janet McTeer in Albert Nobbs.
Spencer seemed breathless as she thanked director Tate Taylor and her co-stars. "I share this with everybody. Thank you world," she said.
Woody Allen won the original Screenplay Oscar for Midnight In Paris, about a novelist adrift in a romantic re-imagining of 1920s Paris.
Allen (76) has been nominated for an Oscar 23 times and this was his fourth win. The filmmaker was not present at the event to accept the honour like always. The Academy was forced to accept its own trophy on behalf of Allen.
The Descendants, an early favourite, managed to win its lone Oscar in the best adapted screenplay category for director Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash.
The Artist, nominated in 10 categories, also won Oscars for best original score and best costume design.
Hugo, with 11 nominations, won five trophies in the technical categories including the Visual Effects, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Cinematography and Art Direction but the film failed to win in the key categories.
Johnny Depp voiced Rango defeated A Cat in Paris, Chico & Rita, Kung Fu Panda 2, Puss in Boots to win Gore Verbinski an Oscar in the best animated category.
A Separation, directed by Asghar Farhadi, became the first Iranian film to win the best foreign Oscar trophy.
"…When talk of war, intimidation and aggression is exchanged between politicians, the name of their country, Iran, is spoken here through her glorious culture, her rich and ancient culture that has been hidden under the heavy dust of politics," Farhadi said in his acceptance speech.
Film editing honours went to Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Undefeated, by TJ Martin, Dan Lindsay and Rich Middlemas, won the Oscar in the documentary feature category.
Saving Face, by Daniel Junge and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, brought Pakistan its first Oscar in the documentary short category.
Iron Lady won Mark Coulier and J Roy Helland Oscar trophies in the make-up category.
Man or Muppet from The Muppets won Bret McKenzie a trophy in the original song category.
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore by William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg won in the short film animated category where as The Shore by Terry George and Oorlagh George took home the trophy in the short film live action category.
The 84th Academy awards were hosted by comedian Billy Crystal.