Catholic Church abuse movie "Spotlight" was named best picture, the top award at Sunday's Oscars ceremony, after a night peppered with pointed punchlines from host Chris Rock about the #OscarsSoWhite controversy that has dominated the industry.

In a ceremony where no single movie commanded attention, Mexico's Alejandro Inarritu nabbed the best directing Oscar for "The Revenant", becoming the first filmmaker in more than 60 years to win back-to-back Academy Awards. Inarritu won in 2015 for "Birdman."

"The Revenant" went into Sunday's ceremony with a leading 12 nominations, and was among four movies believed to have the best chances for best picture after it won Golden Globe and BAFTA trophies.

The ambitious 20th Century Fox Pioneer-era tale, shot in sub-zero temperatures, also brought a first Oscar win for its star Leonardo DiCaprio, who got a standing ovation from the A-list Hollywood audience.

Yet voters in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences chose Open Road Films' "Spotlight," which traces the Boston Globe's 2003 Pulitzer Prize winning investigation of child sex abuse by Catholic priests, for best picture. The movie also won best original screenplay.

Rising star Brie Larson, 26, took home the statuette for best actress for her role as an abducted young woman in indie movie "Room," adding to her armful of trophies from other award shows.

Racial themes and barbs about the selection of an all-white acting nominee line-up for a second year were a running theme of the show, dubbed "the white People's Choice awards" by Rock, an outspoken black comedian.

He questioned why the furor over diversity in the industry had taken root this year, rather than in the 1950s or 1960s, saying that black Americans had "real things to protest at the time."

Among surprises, Britain's Mark Rylance beat presumed favorite and "Creed" actor Sylvester Stallone to win the Academy Award for best supporting actor for "Bridge of Spies."

British singer Sam Smith's theme song for James Bond movie "Spectre" beat Lady Gaga's sexual assault awareness ballad "Til It Happens to You."

Swedish actress Alicia Vikander won the supporting actress Oscar for transgender movie "The Danish Girl" while documentary "Amy," about the late and troubled British pop star Amy Winehouse was also a winner.

Warner Bros "Mad Max: Fury Road" was the biggest winner, clinching six Oscars, but all were in technical categories such as costume, make-up and editing.

2016-02-29T141823Z_9_LYNXNPEC1S059_RTROPTP_3_AWARDS-OSCARS Host Chris Rock opens the show at the 88th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California February 28, 2016. Photo: REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni