Ang Lee's groundbreaking use of 3D in "Life of Pi" scored the Taiwanese director his second Academy Award on Sunday.
Anne Hathaway and Christoph Waltz won supporting actor honors at the ceremony.
Hathaway earned her statue for playing Fantine, a poverty-stricken mother forced into prostitution in "Les Miserables," while Waltz won the Best Supporting Actor statue for his performance as a charming bounty hunter in "Django Unchained."
"It came true," Hathaway said, while clasping her statue.
She went on to say that she hoped that one day the hardships of characters like Fantine would only be found in stories.
In his speech, Waltz thanked his director Quentin Tarantino and fellow nominees. It is the second Oscar for Waltz, who previously earned a statue for his performance as a Nazi officer in "Inglorious Bastards," which was also written and directed by Tarantino.
"I was on a list with the greatest actors around," Waltz said backstage in the press room. "How do you think someone feels when all of a sudden his name is called in that context?"
"Amour" captured Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars on Sunday.
The French-language film from Austrian director Michael Haneke depicts an elderly couple struggling to cope with the ravages of old age.
In his speech, Haneke thanked stars Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva, two legends of foreign language cinema, saying that he never would have been on the stage had it not been for their performances.
Adele now has an Oscar to go along with her trophy case full of Grammys. The British chanteuse earned an Academy Award for her sultry theme song to "Skyfall," which is the first James Bond movie to earn a Best Song Oscar, despite decades of memorable movie music from everyone from Paul McCartney to Carly Simon.
Chris Terrio earned an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for "Argo," for his work bringing the true story of the daring C.I.A. mission to extract several U.S. diplomats from Iran; while Tarantino won his second Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for his antebellum revenge fantasy "Django Unchained."
"I have to cast the right people to make those characters come alive...and boy this time did I do it," Tarantino said, while thanking his cast.
Seth MacFarlane kicked off the 85th Academy Awards by saying that he only got the hosting gig after everyone from Whoopi Goldberg to Ron Jeremy refused the job.
"And the quest to make Tommy Lee Jones laugh begins now," MacFarlane said.
The "Family Guy" creator sent up Hollywood self-aggrandizement, poking fun at the Academy's failure to nominate Ben Affleck and Jean Dujardin's limited English language skills (joking that "The Artist" star couldn't make it in talkies).
The lengthy, over-stuffed opener included musical performances from the gay men's choir of Los Angeles and dancing from Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Daniel Radcliffe, Channing Tatum and Charlize Theron.
There was even a cameo from William Shatner in full James T. Kirk gear from "Star Trek" and a song about actress' who have been naked on film, called "we saw your boobs."
As promised, music factored heavily into the 2013 edition of the Oscars. In addition to MacFarlane's showmanship, there was also a tribute to James Bond's 50 years in films, featuring Dame Shirley Bassey singing the theme from "Goldfinger." Bassey's rendition of the classic 007 anthem brought the crowd at the Dolby Theatre to their feet.
Bassey wasn't the only diva in the house. The ceremony also included a rare appearance by Barbra Streisand, who sang the theme from "The Way We Were" during the show's "In Memorium" segment, which recognizes members of the industry who died during the last year -- a group that includes the composer of that ballad, Marvin Hamlisch.
For good measure, there was also a tribute to movie musicals of the past decade featuring performances from the cast of "Les Miserables," Jennifer Hudson of "Dreamgirls" and Catherine Zeta-Jones" representing "Chicago."
Disney dominated the animation awards, picking up Best Animated Feature for "Brave" while "Paperman" won Best Animated Short Film.
"Searching for Sugar Man," the story of a musician's amazing second act, earned the award for Best Documentary" over intense competition from the likes of "How to Survive a Plague" and "The Invisible War."
On the technical front, there was that rarest of Oscar occurrences -- a tie. In the Sound Editing category, both "Zero Dark Thirty" and "Skyfall" earned statues for capturing the explosions, gunfire and other scenes of finely calibrated mayhem.
William Godenberg got "Argo" on the board with a Best Editing Oscar; a category that is often seen as a precursor to a Best Picture win and a victory that may presage a good evening for Ben Affleck and company.
Ang Lee's "Life of Pi" performed strongly in below the line categories. Claudio Miranda's work capturing the sea voyage of a young man captured a Best Cinematography honor, while Alexandre Desplat earned a statue for Best Score.
A team from Rhythm & Hues picked up a statue for their work designing visual effects for the film. The visual effects honor was especially poignant as Rhythm & Hues filed for bankruptcy protection this month.
Bill Westenhofer, a member of the effects team, tried to pay tribute to the company, but was ushered off the stage as the orchestra began playing. Back stage, he was able to speak in more depth about the financial troubles the befell not just Rhythm & Hues, but the visual effects industry in California.
"We're not technicians...we're artists, and if we don't do something to change the business model, we might lose some of the artistry," Westenhofer said.
Jacqueline Durran earned her first Oscar for Best Costume Design for capturing the opulence of imperial Russia in "Anna Karenina," while Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell snagged a statue for channeling the grime and poverty of revolutionary France in "Les Miserables."
'Les Miserables" also earned a Best Sound Mixing award for amplifying all the passion, bombast and music of the film adaptation of the Broadway sensation.
"Lincoln," which had seemed to be a juggernaut coming out of the Oscar nominations, was largely shut out of the early awards, though it did pick up an honor for production design.
"Curfew" won Best Short Film while "Inocente" captured Best Documentary Short Subject.