The gut-wrenching drama about Solomon Northup, a free black man who was kidnapped and forced into slavery, defeated eight films to win Best Picture at the 86th annual Academy Awards on Sunday.
It was up against American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, Her, Nebraska, Philomena and The Wolf of Wall Street.
Brad Pitt, who was one of the producers on 12 Years, joined the cast and crew onstage to accept the award before handing over the mic to director Steve McQueen.
"Thank you for this incredible honor bestowed upon our film tonight," Pitt said. "I know I speak for everyone standing behind me. It's been an absolute privilege to work on Solomon's story, and we all get to stand up here tonight because of one man who brought us together to tell that story. And that is the indomitable Steve McQueen."
An ecstatic McQueen thanked Pitt and a long list of cast and crew after apologizing to the audience for reading from a piece of paper.
"Everyone deserves not just to survive, but to live. This is the most important legacy of Solomon Northup," McQueen said. "I dedicate this award to all the people who have endured slavery and the 21 million people who still suffer slavery today."
The film also won the Best Adapted Screenplay award, as well as Best Supporting Actress for Lupita Nyong'o, who delivered a tearful acceptance speech.
"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," she said.
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