It was Traffic that brought him the golden statue for Best Director. The film also earned honors for screenwriter Stephen Gaghan (Best Original Screenplay) and Benicio Del Toro, who won Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of an honest Tijuana cop.
"I want to thank anyone who spends part of their day creating," said Soderbergh. "I don't care if it's a book , a film, a painting, a piece of theater, a piece of music, anybody who spends part of their day sharing their experience with us. I think this world would be unlivable without art."
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon won for Best Foreign Film. The Mandarin-language film from Taiwan also got nods for Best Original Screenplay, Original Score, Art and Cinematography.
"Thank you, academy, for this special recognition for non-English movies," said director Ang Lee, accepting the award for Best Foreign Film.
"And finally to my friends and family in Taiwan, my collaborators in Hong Kong and everyone, people in China, who helped us make this movie," Lee said. "It's a great honor."
ABCNEWS Radio's Heidi Oringer and Bill Diehl in Los Angeles contributed to this report.