George Lucas, creator of the Star Wars movies, received a lifetime achievement award from the American Film Institute (AFI) on Thursday.
Steven Spielberg (right) presented George Lucas with his award
Fellow director Steven Spielberg presented the prestigious honour at a gala ceremony in Los Angeles.
Star Wars actors Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford also paid tribute to the film-maker, along with previous recipient Tom Hanks.
"The only achievement is I actually finished Star Wars," Mr Lucas said.
The 61-year-old director was originally approached by the institute more than a decade ago - but turned down the honour, saying he was "too young".
"I'm not ready yet... wait until I'm over 60. Then I'll do it," he told the AFI's board of trustees. "As soon as I turned 60, they called me."
Actors from the original Star Wars film paid tribute to the director
Aside from the Star Wars series, Mr Lucas wrote and produced the Indiana Jones films and his visual effects company, Industrial Light and Magic, has helped revolutionise special effects.
He said he was "starting a new career", referring to his decision to return to his roots and produce smaller, more experimental films.
"So it's kind of the perfect time, probably as good as it's going to get in terms of being successful."
Mr Lucas is currently working on the fourth Indiana Jones film with Mr Spielberg.
"I think it's very appropriate. We're friends, he's gotten his award here, and it's kind of fun to get it from a friend. It makes it more of a personal kind of award."
The AFI's highest award was established in 1973 and last year's winner was actress Meryl Streep.
Other recipients have included Robert De Niro, Barbra Streisand and Clint Eastwood.