British director Steve McQueen’s film 12 Years A Slave has won the best picture award at this year’s Oscars.

In one of the most hotly contested competitions of recent years, the film beat eight fellow nominees – American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, Her, Nebraska, Philomena and The Wolf Of Wall Street.

McQueen jumped for joy at the win and thanked his wife, who first showed him a copy of the original book, for “unearthing this treasure” and his parents before dedicating the win to “everyone who has endured slavery and 21 million who still do today”.

Lupita Nyong’o won the best supporting actress prize for her role as Patsey in the 19th century drama.

Matthew McConaughey accepts the Oscar for best actor for his role in "Dallas Buyers Club" at the 86th Academy Awards in Hollywood Blanchett speaks on stage after she won best actress for her work in 'Blue Jasmine" at the 86th Academy Awards in Hollywood
Matthew McConaughey and Cate Blanchett with their awards

The Mexican-born star, who is of Kenyan descent, paid tribute to McQueen, who she said charged “everything with the breath of your own spirit”.

She thanked her co-stars Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender and said: “I’m a little dazed. I can’t believe this is in my hands. I can’t believe this is real life.”

Ejiofor lost out in the lead actor category to Matthew McConaughey who won for his portrayal of an Aids activist in Dallas Buyers Club.

His co-star Jared Leto won the first award of the night after being named best supporting actor.

Leto beat Bradley Cooper, Michael Fassbender, Jonah Hill and Barkhad Abdi after playing an HIV-positive transgender woman in the film.

Alfonso Cuaron with his best director award

Gravity was the big winner at this year’s awards, winning seven trophies, including best director for Alfonso Cuaron.

The film, starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock, won in many of the technical categories, including visual effects and original score.

Australian Cate Blanchett won the best actress prize for her role in Blue Jasmine, beating Sandra Bullock, Amy Adams, Dame Judi Dench and Meryl Streep.

Accepting her award, she praised her fellow actresses including the “sublime” Sally Hawkins and said films with strong female characters were not “niche”.

She said: “Audiences want to see them and in fact they earn money.”

Despite being nominated 10 times including in all four acting categories, David O Russell’s American Hustle did not win a single prize.

DeGeneres managed to take this widely tweeted selfie. Pic: @TheEllenShow

The ceremony at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre was hosted by comedian Ellen DeGeneres, who opened the show with a string of gags poking fun at the event.

Referring to a recent spell of wet weather in LA, she said: “For those of you around the world who are watching it has been a tough couple of days – it has been raining. We’re fine, thank you for your prayers.”

A selfie taken on DeGeneres’ phone featuring Meryl Streep, Brad Pitt, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence has become the most retweeted tweet in Twitter’s history, garnering over one million in just 45 minutes and going on to be retweeted more than two million times.

DeGeneres announced: “We have broken Twitter.”

Pharrell Williams was the first act to perform at the event, singing Happy from Despicable Me 2. He was followed by Karen O, U2 and Pink.

Williams, Karen O and U2 lost out in the original song category to Let It Go from Frozen. The box office hit also won the best animation prize.

DeGeneres gave out pizza to stars including Brad Pitt

Bette Midler received a standing ovation after singing The Wind Beneath My Wings following a montage paying tribute to members of the film industry who have died in the last year.

After joking about how hungry stars get during the notoriously long ceremony, DeGeneres appeared to order pizza which she then handed out to Leto and others sitting in the first few rows at the theatre.

The award for best documentary short went to The Lady In Number 6: Music Saved My Life – a week after its inspiration, pianist and world’s oldest Holocaust survivor, Alice Herz-Sommer, 110, died in London.

Italian film The Great Beauty won best foreign film while 20 Feet From Stardom was named best documentary, beating The Act Of Killing which had been a favourite to win.

The Great Gatsby won best costume and production design while the make-up and hairstyling award went to Dallas Buyers Club.