Sir Elton John and Warren Beatty are among six stars honoured for lifetime contributions to American culture.
This year's winners including Warren Beatty and Sir Elton John (left)
The singer and actor received Kennedy Center honours alongside soprano Dame Joan Sutherland, composer John Williams and producers Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee.
Director Steven Spielberg told the Washington event that he originally told Williams that his two-note score for movie Jaws seemed rather thin.
Williams replied: "I really think that's all you need."
'Other first lady'
The celebration included a reception hosted by President Bush and his wife, culminating on Sunday evening with a gala at the John F Kennedy Centre for the Performing Arts.
Among the 2,400 invited guests were actor Robert Downey Jr, Oscar winner Faye Dunaway and singer songwriter Billy Joel.
Sir Elton was serenaded by Downey, Joel and musician Kid Rock, while the actor introduced the star as "the other first lady".
The singer said the award was "the icing on the cake".
"It's incredible for someone who's British to be given such an accolade from America, which has given me so much already in my career," he added.
Opera singer Dame Joan Sutherland, 77, was recognised for her wide musical repetoire and ability to hit high notes.
Husband and wife Davis and Dee, who are also actors, were awarded for having appeared in 50 films together, and were praised by rap star P Diddy for having inspired his career.
Journalist Walter Cronkite, who has hosted the annual event for the past 25 years, handed over the task to Caroline Kennedy, daughter of John F Kennedy.