Clint Eastwood, Helen Mirren, Tim Robbins and Forest Whitaker were among the stars on hand to honour Morgan Freeman as he received the American Film Institute's Life Achievement Award.
Betty White, Samuel L Jackson, Don Cheadle and Sidney Poitier also feted the 74-year-old actor during a private ceremony at Sony Studios in California.
Freeman appeared truly humbled, saying: "This is easy to take but hard to believe."
He added: "Where I come from in Mississippi, they call this walking in high cotton. For me, heaven has always been about acting in the movies. I'm proud to be an actor, although for this one night, you've made me feel like a star."
The three-and-a-half-hour celebration included clips of Freeman's legendary films and early performances. There were clips of Freeman the soldier in 1989's Glory, Freeman as detective in Se7en, Freeman the loyal friend in Driving Miss Daisy, and Freeman as God, as in Bruce Almighty and Evan Almighty.
He said: "I should be ashamed to say that sooner or later, I knew that someone was going to call on me to play God. I just had to be sure that when I said OK, that it was a comedy."
Freeman blew Robbins a kiss when The Shawshank Redemption star said, "It was an honour being locked up with you, Morgan."
Eastwood presented Freeman with the star-shaped AFI award, calling him "the greatest actor".
The actor and director added: "He is the most effortless person to be around and to act. I don't know if it's proper to love another man, but this is as close as I'm going to get to it."
Freeman is the 39th recipient of the AFI honour, which recognises those whose talent helps advance the art of film.