Filmmaker Steve McQueen received the British Film Institute (BFI) Fellowship.
The "12 Years A Slave" director was presented with his prize by frequent collaborator Michael Fassbender at the closing ceremony for the London Film Festival and said it had given him "a spring in my step", reported BBC.
"It's a good honour. It's one of those things where you're just chuffed. It's a case of just continuing with the work but it's one of those things that give you a little spring in your step, for sure," McQueen said.
He is the first black director or producer to receive the award.
During his speech, McQueen said, "There are only two things I really know. One of them is that I'm black and the other one is that I'm a Londoner. Everything else I don't know. But I know I've had the possibility of exploring and of being reckless and of experimenting because I didn't pay to go to university.
"I had the freedom to experiment and it seems to me that is being slowly eradicated. It is our job in this room to keep these doors open for people who don't have all those chances."
Fassbender called him "sensitive and dangerous" and added, "He's like a very light hippo - an anomaly."
The ceremony was hosted by Michael Sheen and attended by stars including Alicia Vikander, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Anna Friel, Lily James, David Tennant, Kerry Fox and Matthew Macfadyen.