Historical drama wins three including Best Picture; Gravity leads the pack with seven wins.

12 Years a Slave won the coveted Best Picture Oscar at the 86th Academy Awards in Los Angeles last night and picked up two more prizes to score the hat-trick.

Brad Pitt, one of the film’s producers, took to the stage along with stars of the drama and said it was “an absolute privilege” to work on the true story of Solomon Northup, before introducing “the indomitable Mr Steve McQueen”.

After thanking his backers, including Pitt’s Plan B and Tessa Ross at Film4, the British director said: “Everyone deserves not just to survive, but to live. This is the most important legacy of Solomon Northup. I dedicate this award to all the people who have endured slavery. And the 21 million people who still suffer slavery today.”

In a statement, Ross later said: “From internationally acclaimed artist to Academy Award winning filmmaker in just a few years, Steve’s is an astonishing journey, and one that Channel 4 is immensely privileged to have been a part of. He’s an inspiration to so many. It’s Steve’s moment, but the whole of the British film industry should also feel incredibly proud tonight.”

Fresh from picking up an Independent Spirit Award on Saturday for her role in 12 Years a Slave, Lupita Nyong’o won the Oscar for best supporting actress.

In an emotional speech, the actress said: “It doesn’t escape me for one moment that so much joy in my life is thanks to so much pain in someone else’s. And so I want to salute the spirit of Patsey for her guidance. And for Solomon, thank you for telling her story and your own.”

She also praised her director and said: “Steve McQueen, you charge everything you fashion with a breath of your own spirit… I’m certain that the dead are standing about you and watching and they are grateful and so am I… When I look down at this golden statue, may it remind me and every little child that no matter where you’re from your dreams are valid.”

Completing the hat-trick and accepting his award for best adapted screenplay, John Ridley said: “All the praise goes to Solomon Northup.”

It was sci-fi thriller Gravity that took the lion’s share of awards, scoring seven throughout the evening and helping Warner Bros. top the list of studios and distributors on the night with 10 Oscars

The film picked up prizes for cinematography, for the work of Emmanuel Lubezki; film editing; original score, for composer Steven Price; sound editing by Glenn Freemantle; sound mixing; and visual effects for Tim Webber and his team at Framestore.

As widely predicted, Alfonso Cuaron won best director for his work on Gravity, which took several years to make it to screen. Accepting the award from Angelina Jolie, who was originally attached to star in the astronaut thriller, Cuaron thanked the film itself: “Like any other human endeavor, making a film can be a transformative experience, and I want to thank Gravity because for many of us involved in this film, it was definitely a transformative experience.”

Among others, he also thanked star Sandra Bullock and said: “Sandy, you’re Gravity. You are the soul, the heart of the film. You’re the most amazing collaborator and one of the best people I ever met.”

Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto took the best actor and supporting actor statues, respectively, for their roles as unlikely business partners in Dallas Buyers Club.

McConaughey thanked “all 6,000 members” of the Academy as well as God and his family, while Leto gave a moving speech that he ended: “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 with you and for you.”

The film won a third prize for achievement in makeup and hairstyling.

Since the premiere of Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine last July, Cate Blanchett had been tipped for the best actress prize and the momentum stayed with her. Picking up the Academy Award, she said: “I’m so very proud that Blue Jasmine stayed in the cinemas for as long as it did.

“Thank you to Sony Classics, to Michael [Barker] and Tom [Bernard] for their extraordinary support. For so bravely and intelligently distributing the film and to the audiences who went to see it and perhaps those of us in the industry who are still foolishly clinging to the idea that female films with women at the center are niche experiences. They are not. Audiences want to see them and, in fact, they earn money. The world is round, people.”

Disney’s Frozen, which crossed $1bn at the global box office on Sunda, picked up best animated feature as well as best song for Let It Go.

The lavish look of Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby was rewarded with two Oscars for costume design and production design.

American Hustle, which picked up awards at most other ceremonies, walked away empty handed but Spike Jonze’s Her managed one for best original screenplay, written by Jonze.

Backing singers documentary Twenty Feet From Stardom won best documentary, beating favourite The Act of Killing, while Paolo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty completed the set by winning best foreign language film, having won in the same category at the BAFTAs and Golden Globes. The win marked Italy’s first Oscar win since 1998 - 15 years after Roberto Benigni’s Life is Beautiful (La vita e’ bella) picked up three.

Winners by numbers

  • Gravity: 7
  • 12 Years a Slave: 3
  • Dallas Buyers Club: 3
  • Frozen: 2
  • The Great Gatsby: 2
  • Blue Jasmine: 1
  • Her: 1

Awards by studio/distributors

  • Warner Bros: 10
  • Fox: 3
  • Universal: 3
  • Disney: 2
  • The Weinstein Company: 1