The Academy rewarded the women of Hollywood for powerful roles both behind the camera and in front of it Sunday night.
As the first woman to win an Oscar for best director, Bigelow described the feeling as "profound."
"I hope it can be useful to other filmmakers, be them men or women, who don't give up on their dream," Bigelow said.
Mo'Nique set the stage for the evening, winning best supporting actress for her portrayal of an abusive mother in the movie "Precious."
"I wasn't nervous about winning or losing. ... I had butterflies just for the process ... because we had already won back in Utah when an old, little white woman said to me, 'You changed my life.' … We already won," Mo'Nique told Roberts.
First-time Academy Award nominee Sandra Bullock beat out 16-time nominee Meryl Streep for best actress for her role in "The Blind Side."
"I would like to thank what this film was about for me, which are moms who take care of the babies and the children no matter where they come from," Bullock said in her acceptance speech.
Bullock played Leigh Ann Touhy, a big-hearted Southern mom who takes in a homeless teenager. The movie was a box-office smash, earning $250 million.
One male actor did manage to grab some attention, however. Jeff Bridges did what most thought he would; he won best actor for his portrayal of Bad Blake, an aging and beaten-down country music star in "Crazy Heart."
He beat out fellow nominees George Clooney and Morgan Freeman. But Bridges told Roberts he almost didn't take the role.
"It was a wonderful script, a terrific script," he said. "But, like you say, it didn't have any music. You can imagine a movie with bad music wouldn't be any good. So it was a huge missing piece.
"But as soon as my old buddy [musician] T-Bone [Burnett] stepped up, I said this was going to be cool," Bridges said.
Bridges was first nominated for an Oscar in 1971 for his supporting role in "The Last Picture Show." Last night, he thanked his parents, TV and film legend Lloyd Bridges, who died in 1998, and mother Dorothy, who died last year.
"My dad was so proactive," Bridges said. "He loved showbiz so much. He wanted all his kids to go into it."
Bridges originally did not want to pressure his three daughters to follow in the family footsteps, he said. But now, he said, he regrets it because his children, who are in their early 20s, are trying to find their respective careers.
"I said to them it's in their blood. You can act. ... I'll help you out. But I wouldn't be surprised if any of them did even go off that way," Bridges said.
When asked what Bridges would say to his father if he were alive, the first-time Academy Award winner became emotional.
"I got the baton," Bridges said. "I passed it. I got it, dad."