The royal drama, about stuttering British monarch George VI, led the competition with 12 nominations going into this year's (11) Oscars, and edged out the likes of Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception and The Social Network to claim the most coveted title of the night.
Firth was crowned Best Actor in a Leading Role, emerging triumphant over Javier Bardem (Biutiful), Jeff Bridges (True Grit), Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network) and James Franco (127 Hours).
Filmmaker Tom Hooper also basked in Oscar glory as he was hailed Best Director, beating Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan), David O. Russell (The Fighter), David Fincher (The Social Network) and Joel and Ethan Coen (True Grit).
Pregnant Natalie Portman fought back tears as she walked away with Best Actress in a Leading Role for her portrayal of a tormented ballet dancer in Black Swan, ahead of Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right), Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole), Jennifer Lawrence (Winter's Bone) and Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine).
She gave special thanks to her Black Swan choreographer and fiance Benjamin Millepied, telling the audience, "So many people helped me prepare for this role... my beautiful love, Benjamin Millepied who choreographed the film and has now given me the most important role of my life."
It was also a golden night for The Fighter, about tough Boston, Massachusetts boxing legends Mickey Ward and Dickie Eklund, as Christian Bale and Melissa Leo dominated the Best Supporting categories.
Meanwhile, moviemaker Francis Ford Coppola, actor Eli Wallach and historian Kevin Brownlow were given a standing ovation in recognition of the lifetime achievement honours they received at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Governors Awards in November (10). Fellow honouree Jean-Luc Godard did not attend the ceremony.
Oscars co-hosts Anne Hathaway and James Franco opened the 2011 Academy Awards with a hilarious spoof poking fun at the Best Picture nominees, while 2010 presenter Alec Baldwin and Morgan Freeman also made surprise appearances in the skit.
Gwyneth Paltrow, Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi, Randy Newman, and Florence Welch and A.R. Rahman provided the music for the night as they performed the tracks nominated for Best Original Song.
And Celine Dion took to the Kodak Theatre stage in Los Angeles to sing Smile during the ceremony's annual In Memorium segment, remembering the stars lost in the past 12 months, including Tony Curtis, Leslie Nielsen, Dennis Hopper, Pete Postlethwaite and Gloria Stuart.
The complete list of winners at the 83rd Annual Academy Awards is as follows:
The King's Speech
Best Actor in a Leading Role:
Colin Firth, The King's Speech
Best Actress in a Leading Role:
Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Best Actor in a Supporting Role:
Christian Bale, The Fighter
Best Actress in a Supporting Role:
Melissa Leo, The Fighter
Tom Hooper, The King's Speech
Best Screenplay - Adapted:
Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network
Best Screenplay - Original:
David Seidler, The King's Speech
Best Foreign Language Film:
In a Better World (Denmark)
Best Animated Feature:
Toy Story 3
Best Documentary (Feature):
Best Art Direction:
Robert Stromberg and Karen O'Hara, Alice In Wonderland
Wally Pfister, Inception
Best Sound Mixing:
Lora Hirschberg, Gary A. Rizzo and Ed Novick, Inception
Best Sound Editing:
Richard King, Inception
Best Original Score:
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, The Social Network
Best Original Song:
We Belong Together from Toy Story 3, Randy Newman
Colleen Atwood, Alice in Wonderland
Best Documentary (Short Subject):
Strangers No More
Best Film Editing:
The Social Network
Best Animated Short Film:
The Lost Thing
Best Live Action Short Film:
God of Love
Best Visual Effects:
The Oscar-winning Shutter Island director beat out Jean-Luc Godard and Steven Spielberg to land the top honour in Paste magazine's top 50 list.
Also making the top 10 are Joel and Ethan Coen, Steven Soderbergh, Paul Thomas Anderson, Woody Allen, Quentin Tarantino, David Lynch and Wong Kar-Wai.
Kathryn Bigelow, who became the first female to win a Best Director Oscar on Sunday (07Mar10), failed to make the list.
As film festivals have become ubiquitous, status and distinction have become increasingly important. And no festival has the status and distinction that the Cannes International Film Festival has.
Nothing can beat the mix of midwinter sun, Cannes cachet, bonhomie, expensive sunglasses and the eclectic smorgasbord of big-bucks productions and auteur-driven independents.
The 54th edition of the film festival, which began Wednesday, doesn't disappoint.
The festival's festivities will kick off - literally - with a lavish and luscious flick, Moulin Rouge. A cancan revue, backed by the film's interior sets, will take place near Cannes' old port, starting the party, and the film's buzz should dominate the first day.
The $50 million dollar production is the first of 23 films to be entered in competition for the Palme d'Or. Moulin Rouge, starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor, tells the tale of doomed love between a cabaret star and a young poet. Director Baz Luhrman is no stranger to Cannes: his Strictly Ballroom screened there in 1992.
DreamWorks' much ballyhooed animated adventure film Shrek also is in the competition field. Featuring the voice talents of Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz and Eddie Murphy, Shrek is the first feature animation in 48 years to be assigned to the competition field. Shrek's showing at Cannes will be the world premiere for the film, as it doesn't open nationally in the United States until Friday, May 18.
Three other American films will vie for the coveted Palme d'Or award. Joel and Ethan Coen return to the red carpet with The Man Who Wasn't There, starring Frances McDormand (Fargo, Almost Famous) and Billy Bob Thornton (Sling Blade, Pushing Tin). Jack Nicholson stars in the Sean Penn-lensed stark mystery, The Pledge. And David Lynch returns to his dark, twisted side, with Mulholland Drive, Lynch's unique take on Los Angeles life.
Of the 18 other films in competition, ones to watch include:
Two-time Palme d'Or winner Shohei Imamura's Lukewarm Water Under The Bridge;
Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf portrays the plight of Afghani women in Sun Behind The Moon;
Danis Tanovic's No Man's Land, the first entry by a Bosnian;
Acclaimed Japanese director Shinji Aoyama's Desert Moon; and
French new wave pioneer Jean-Luc Godard's Eloge de l'amour.
But not all the excitement is reserved for those in competition. American films headline the Un Certain Regard category, Cannes' second tier of films, including noted indie artist Hal Hartley's No Such Thing - a woman falls in love with a monster, set in Iceland - and the digital video project featuring Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Anniversary Party.
France and Japan also have an impressive presence in this category. The French film with the most buzz is Claire Denis' science fiction thriller, Trouble Every Day. Starring Beatrice Dalle (Betty Blue), the seemingly normal denizens of Paris are turning into cannibals.
Exploring a more current topic - and one that happens to affect most people - Japan's Kiyoshi Kurosawa releases Kairo, a computer-virus action flick. Needless to say, download the trailer to your home PC at your own risk.
Francis Ford Coppola is making a splash on the beach at Cannes, without even entering any competition. Twenty-two years after Apocalypse Now won a Palme d'Or, the movie returns, this time with 53 minutes of footage that's never been seen before.
Coppola's son Roman is following in Dad's footsteps, showing his new film C.Q. Cannes also screened last year The Virgin Suicides, directed by Coppla's daughter, Sofia.
The fortnight of film will end Sunday, May 20, with a showing of Savage Souls, by France's Raoul Ruiz.