The searing slavery drama 12 Years a Slave was crowned best picture at the 86th annual Academy Awards, but the space saga Gravity stole the night with seven Oscars.

British filmmaker Steve McQueen's powerful film, based on free black man Solomon Northup's 1853 memoir of being kidnapped and spending more than a decade enslaved, has won myriad accolades during the film awards season. 12 Years a Slave is also the first film directed by a black filmmaker to win best picture.

"Everyone deserves not just to survive, but to live... This is the most important legacy of Solomon Northup," McQueen said onstage, backed by his cast and producers.

"I dedicate this award to all those people who have suffered slavery and the 21 million people who are still suffering in slavery today."

Kenyan-Mexican actress Lupita Nyong'o earned best supporting actress for her blistering turn as the tormented slave Patsey — her first major role after attending the Yale School of Drama — in McQueen's film, produced by Brad Pitt's production company Plan B.

"It doesn’t escape me for a moment that so much joy in my life is thanks to so much pain in someone else’s. So I want to salute the spirit of Patsey for her guidance and for Solomon [Northup], thank you for telling her story and your own," she said in her acceptance.

"This has been the joy of my life… When I look down on this golden statue, may it remind me and every little child that no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid."

The film also earned John Ridley an Oscar for his adapted screenplay.

Blockbuster Gravity is tops

The blockbuster Gravity, however, was the most-honoured film of the evening, earning a raft of technical trophies as well as an Academy Award for director Alfonso Cuaron (marking a first win in the category for a Latino director).

"Making a film can be a transformative experience," Cuaron said as he took the stage.

"It was a very formative experience and it’s good because it took so long. If not, it would have been a waste of time," he quipped before also thanking his son and the film's co-writer, Jonas Cuaron, and stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, who was also a producer.

The eye-popping 3D film, which earned more than $700 million US at the box office, ruled over the technical honours, including Oscars for cinematography, visual effects (a team that included Montreal-based Chris Lawrence of Framestore), film editing, sound editing, sound mixing and original score.

Dallas Buyers Club, directed by Canadian Jean-Marc Vallée, snagged a trio of Oscars, including best actor for Matthew McConaughey, whose performance as the scrappy, HIV-positive cowboy-turned-alternative medicine champion Ron Woodroof has earned him accolades all season.

Jared Leto, who had taken a six-year break from acting before tackling the film, picked up the evening's first award — best supporting actor — for his turn as an HIV-positive transgender prostitute named Rayon. In addition to paying special tribute to his mother and brother, the actor and rocker also referenced AIDS victims and current zones of political unrest in his speech.

"To all the dreamers out there around the world watching this tonight in places like Ukraine and Venezuela, I want to say we are here and, as you struggle to make your dreams happen [and] to live the impossible, we’re thinking of you tonight," Leto declared.

"This is for the 36 million people who have lost the battle to AIDS and to those of you out there who have ever felt injustice because of who you are or who you love, tonight I stand here in front of the world for you."

Dallas Buyers Club also picked up an Oscar for its makeup and hair-styling.

The fourth acting category was rounded out by Cate Blanchett's win for Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine, a contemporary portrait of a woman in caught in a downward spiral.

"I'm so very proud that Blue Jasmine stayed in the cinemas for as long as it did," she noted, extending her thanks to "the audiences who went to see it. Perhaps some of us in the industry who are still foolishly clinging to the idea that female films, with women at the centre, are niche experiences — they are not. Audiences want to see them and in fact they earn money."

Montreal filmmakers capture Oscar

Aside from Gravity visual effects artist Lawrence, another Montreal-based crew took home an Oscar: filmmakers Malcolm Clarke and Nicholas Reed accepted best documentary short subject for the international co-production The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life.

Dual Oscar-winners included the hit animated film Frozen, which nabbed best animated feature and best original song for Let It Go, and Baz Luhrmann's sumptuous adaptation of The Great Gatsby, honoured for its spectacular costume and production design.

Other winners include:

  • Animated short film: Mr. Hublot.
  • Live action short film: Helium.
  • Documentary feature: 20 Feet from Stardom.
  • Foreign-language film: The Great Beauty.
  • Original screenplay: Spike Jonze, Her.

The Oscars are the culmination of the annual movie awards season. Hosted by affable talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, the star-studded, lengthy televised gala was broadcast live to more than 200 countries.


Oscars 2014: Winners of the 86th annual Academy Awards

  • Best picture: 12 Years a Slave.
  • Actress: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine.
  • Actor: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club.
  • Director: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity.
  • Supporting actor: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club.
  • Supporting actress: Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave.
  • Original screenplay: Spike Jonze, Her.
  • Adapted screenplay: John Ridley, 12 Years a Slave.
  • Cinematography: Gravity.
  • Foreign-language film: The Great Beauty (Italy)
  • Animated feature: Frozen.
  • Animated short: Mr. Hublot.
  • Documentary feature: 20 Feet from Stardom.
  • Documentary short: The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life.
  • Live action short: Helium.
  • Costume design: The Great Gatsby.
  • Makeup and hairstyling: Dallas Buyers Club.
  • Production design: The Great Gatsby.
  • Film editing: Gravity.
  • Sound editing: Gravity.
  • Sound mixing: Gravity.
  • Visual effects: Gravity.
  • Original score: Gravity.
  • Original song: Let It Go from Frozen.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of the story identified 12 Years a Slave actress Lupita Nyong'o as Nigerian. She is actually of Kenyan-Mexican heritage.
    Mar 02, 2014 11:11 PM ET