LOS ANGELES – The 74th annual Academy Awards made history Sunday night.
Halle Berry became the first African American woman to win an Academy Award for best actress for her part in Monster's Ball — and Denzel Washington became the second African American man to win for a leading role for his portrayal of a bad cop in Training Day.
They joined Sidney Poitier, who received the best-actor Oscar for 1963's Lilies of the Field and received a career-achievement award Sunday.
"Oh, my God," Berry said, crying hysterically. "I'm sorry. This moment is so much bigger than me. This moment is for Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, Diahann Carroll. ... It's for every nameless, faceless woman of color who now has a chance because this door tonight has been opened."
Washington, a past supporting-actor winner for Glory joked: "Two birds in one night. Forty years I've been chasing Sidney. They finally give it to me, and they give it to him the same night," he said, referring to Poitier's honorary Oscar.
A Beautiful Mind, the story of schizophrenic math genius John Nash, swept the other major awards including best picture, best director for Ron Howard, best supporting actress for Jennifer Connelly, and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman won best adapted screenplay.
The film was considered a front-runner early on in the Oscar race, however it was plagued by accusations that it glossed over unflattering parts of Nash's life, and many speculated that Lord of the Rings might nab the coveted Oscar.
British actor Jim Broadbent was a surprise winner for best supporting actor for his role in Iris opposite Judi Dench. Both Ian McKellen for Lord of the Rings and Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast were favored in the category.
For the first year, the Academy created a new category for best animated feature, which went to Shrek, beating out Monsters, Inc. and Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius.
The ensemble drama Gosford Park won for best original screenplay, written by Julian Fellows.
When Poitier received his honorary Oscar he was treated to a short film, which included tributes from actors including Berry, Whoopi Goldberg, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Spike Lee. Poitier gave a moving speech and dedicated his award to all African American actors who came before him.
Robert Redford also received a lifetime achievement award, this one presented by Barbra Streisand. Redford has appeared in over 50 films, including such classics as All the President's Men and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. In his acceptance speech he spoke about freedom and artist's responsibility to continue to push the creative envelope.
In the early awards, Black Hawk Down took home the film editing and sound Oscars, while the fantasy epic The Lord of the Rings received the make-up, cinematography and visual effects awards. Costume design and art direction Oscars went to Moulin Rouge, the film that captured the rich, ornate cabaret styles from Paris in 1899. And Pearl Harbor took home the sound editing Oscar.
Composer Howard Shore won the original score Oscar for The Lord of the Rings, beating out previous Oscar-winner John Williams who was nominated for Artificial Intelligence: A.I. and Harry Potter.
After 15 Oscar losses over the years for song or score, Randy Newman finally won for best song, "If I Didn't Have You," from Monsters, Inc.
"I don't want your pity," Newman cracked. "I want to thank first of all the music branch for giving me so many chances to be humiliated over the years."
No Man's Land from Bosnia and Herzegovina won the foreign film Oscar, beating French favorite Amelie.
The documentary Oscar went to Murder on a Sunday Morning and the short subject documentary award went to Thoth. The Oscar for live action short went to The Accountant, and For the Birds won for best animated short.
This year's Oscars also acknowledge how the world has changed since the Sept. 11 attacks in several ways. Tom Cruise opened the ceremony with a somber monologue about where films fit in a post-Sept. 11 world. He was followed by a light-hearted montage featuring a range of people, from regular folks to famous faces like Lou Reed, Laura Bush and Al Sharpton talking about their favorite movie moments.
And Woody Allen made a rare appearance at the Oscars to introduce a different montage dedicated to New York City, meant to encourage continued filmmaking in the Big Apple.
The tribute was made by filmmaker Nora Ephron. It began with the opening of Allen's Manhattan and included clips from such classic New York films as Taxi Driver, Tootsie, The French Connection, The Apartment, On the Waterfront, and many more.
Later, in introducing the annual retrospective of the Hollywood notables who died in the past year, Kevin Spacey asked everyone to rise for a moment of silence "for every single American hero who gave his or her life on Sept. 11."
Host Whoopi Goldberg made a grand entrance at the beginning of the evening by being lowered from the ceiling on a swing while sporting a wild, glittering outfit — an entrance straight out of Moulin Rouge.
She told the audience, "I am the original sexy beast," referring to Sexy Beast with Ben Kingsley.
The Oscars returned to Hollywood for the first time since 1960. The new site for the awards was the recently opened Kodak Theatre, just across Hollywood Boulevard from the hotel where the first Oscars were presented in 1929.
The show ran a record long 4 hours, 23 minutes, breaking the 2000 mark of 4 hours, 9 minutes.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.