The Oscar for best picture on Sunday went to Green Book, which depicts the real-life relationship between African-American jazz musician Don Shirley and his white chauffeur.
The film beat out seven other nominees to win Hollywood’s flagship award amid controversy over its depiction of Shirley and his driver as they travelled through segregated America in the 1960s.
Shirley’s family have criticized the film, with the musician’s brother calling it a “symphony of lies.”
“The whole story is about love, it’s about loving each other despite our differences,” the film’s director Pete Farrelly said while accepting the Academy Award.
Mahershala Ali, who plays Shirley, on Sunday became the first African-American to win the Oscar for best supporting actor twice.
The academy had hoped the Oscars would bounce back from record low ratings last year and a turbulent run-up, including comedian Kevin Hart’s resignation as host after past homophobic comments resurfaced and backlash over attempts to shorten the broadcast.
In place of a host, dozens of Hollywood luminaries including Tina Fey and Jennifer Lopez took the stage to present awards.
Filling in for deceased Queen frontman Freddie Mercury – the subject of best picture Bohemian Rhapsody– singer Adam Lambert rocked alongside the British band’s members to open the ceremony.
First-time Oscar nominee Rami Malek took the best leading actor award for his performance as Mercury.
“We made a film about a gay man, an immigrant, who lived his life just unapologetically himself. And the fact that I’m celebrating him and this story with you tonight is proof that we’re longing for stories like this,” Malek said during his acceptance speech.
Politics were never far from the action on Sunday.
“The 2020 presidential election is around the corner. Let’s all mobilize,” director Spike Lee said to a standing ovation.
Comedian Maya Rudolph earlier joked onstage that “Mexico is not paying for the wall,” alluding to a campaign promise made by President Donald Trump.
Black Panther, which became a cultural touchstone for its depiction of a superhero of African descent, won in the costume design, production design and original score categories.
Olivia Colman beat out favored veteran actress Glenn Close – who has been nominated seven times but never won an Oscar – and pop star Lady Gaga to win best leading actress for her role as England’s Queen Anne in The Favourite.
While accepting the award, Colman told Close that this was “not how I wanted it to be.”
Earlier, Regina King took the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in If Beale Street Could Talk.
Other winners include the outdoor epic Free Solo as Best Documentary and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse as Best Animated Feature.
There were numerous noticeable firsts at this year’s event.
Acclaimed director Lee won his first competitive Oscar for best adapted screenplay after decades of notorious snubs.
Roma was the first movie produced by online streaming giant Netflix to be nominated for best picture.
And the blockbuster Black Panther was the first superhero film to garner a Best Picture nomination, Hollywood’s top prize.