Director Ben Affleck's political thriller lived up to its favorite status and won three honors, including best picture, at the 85th Academy Awards.
"I was here 15 years ago and I had no idea what I was doing," Affleck says, referring to his screenplay win for Good Will Hunting. "I was a kid. I never thought I would be back here and now I am because of so many of you."
Daniel Day-Lewis won his record third best-actor statue for Steven Spielberg's Lincoln — his others came for 2007's There Will Be Blood and 1989's My Left Foot.
"I really don't know how any of this happened. I do know I've had good fortune in my life," he said, making reference to his knack for completely becoming his characters.
"I do know my wife Rebecca (Miller) has lived with very strange men, and she's been the perfect companion to all of them."
Day-Lewis also tapped into his lighter side and joked with presenter Meryl Streep: "Three years ago, before we decided to do a straight swap, I had committed to play Margaret Thatcher (in The Iron Lady). And Meryl was Steven's first choice for Lincoln. I'd like to see that version. Steven didn't have to persuade me, but I had to persuade Steven that Lincoln didn't have to be a musical."
Lincoln entered the night leading the field with the most nominations — 12 — but left with just two Oscars, for best actor and production design. However, Life of Pi exited the ceremony with the most wins — four — including best director for Ang Lee, following up his first victory with 2005's Brokeback Mountain.
"Thank you, movie god. I have to share this with all 3,000 who worked with me on Life of Pi," he said. "You're the golden statue in my heart."
The movie also locked up visual effects, cinematography and original score. Composer Mychael Danna remarked that Lee directed the movie in the same impressive spirit that "people came from around the world to breathe life into this music."
After wowing critics and audiences for her Les Miserables musical role as the tragic Fantine — and her emotional belting of the showtune I Dreamed a Dream — Anne Hathaway picked up her first Academy Award, for best supporting actress.
"It came true," she said with a whisper after receiving her Oscar. "Here's hoping that sometime in the not-so-distant future the misfortunes of Fantine will only be found in stories, and not in real life."
Best-actress nominee Jennifer Lawrence also became a first-time winner for Silver Linings Playbook — although she did have a spill on the way to the stage to receive her award.
"You guys are just standing up because I fell and you feel sorry for me," joked Lawrence, who also made sure to wish her fellow nominee, Amour star Emmanuelle Riva, a happy 86th birthday.
Meryl Streep hugs Daniel Day-Lewis after he won the Oscar for best actor.
"We participated in a hero's journey, and the hero being Quentin," said Waltz, winning in a field featuring five actors with 21 Oscar nominations between them. "You scaled the mountain because you're not afraid of it. You slay the dragon because you're not afraid of it."
In turn, Tarantino paid respect to his actors when the Django filmmaker picked up his second Oscar for best original screenplay. (His first was for Pulp Fiction.)
"I have to cast the right people to make those characters come alive and for them to last a long time," he said. "It's such an honor to get it this year. This will be the writer's year."
Argo writer Chris Terrio won his first-ever Oscar for best adapted screenplay, and dedicated it to former CIA officer Tony Mendez — whose work to save six Americans in revolutionary Iran was the basis for the political thriller — and those around the world "who use creativity and intelligence to solve problems non-violently."
In the race for best animated feature, Pixar's Brave — about a young redheaded Scottish lass — conquered the field, and the win marks the animation studio's seventh triumph in 12 years.
"I just happened to be wearing the kilt," Brave director Mark Andrews joked.
Amour, which is also up for best picture, garnered the Academy Award for foreign language film. The movie followed an octogenarian husband and wife, and in his acceptance speech director Michael Haneke doled out his own love to his wife ("You are the center of my life") and his two stars, Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant ("Without them, I would not be up here").
Adele's hit title tune from the James Bond film Skyfall garnered the Oscar for best original song. The British singer and recent Grammy winner tearily thanked everyone around the project "for believing in me all the time."
Malik Bendjelloul and Simon Chinn's Searching for Sugar Man, about the obscure American singer Sixto Rodriguez, was the winner for best documentary feature.
Rodriguez wasn't at the ceremony "because he didn't want to take any of the credit himself," Chinn said. "That says everything about that man and his story you'd ever want to know."
Anna Karenina's Jacqueline Durran picked up the Oscar for costume design, Les Miserables was honored for sound mixing as well as makeup and hairstyling, and film editing went to Argo. There was also the sixth tie in Oscar history, this time in sound editing, between Zero Dark Thirty and Skyfall.
In the shorts categories, Shawn Christensen's Curfew won for live-action film, documentary went to Inocente by Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine, and Disney's Paperman, by John Kahrs, garnered the animation Oscar.