The film beat fellow nominees The Big Sick (Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani), Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig), The Shape of Water (Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor) and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Martin McDonagh).
Feeling humbled to win his first Oscar, Peele explained the doubts he had while writing the film. “This means so much to me. I stopped writing this movie 20 times because I thought it was impossible. I thought it wasn’t going to work. I thought no one would ever make this movie,” the first-time winner explained. “But I kept coming back to it because I knew if someone let me make this movie, that people would hear it and people would see it.”
Peele then acknowledged the praise the film has received from audiences, thanking those who helped “raise my voice and let me make this movie.”
The low-budget horror film earned $255 million worldwide and has dominated award season, receiving nominations for this year’s Golden Globe and SAG awards and netting wins at the Critics’ Choice Award and, most recently, wins for best director and best feature during Saturday’s Film Independent Spirit Awards.
Though created to pay homage to Peele’s favorite film genre, the director has made history with his cultural statement film, his debut motion picture. Peele is the third person in history to be nominated for best directing, best original screenplay and best picture all for their directorial debut, following Warren Beatty for Heaven Can Wait and James L. Brooks for Terms of Endearment. Peele is also the fourth African-American ever to earn a best director nomination, and the fifth black person (Brit Steve McQueen was nominated for 12 Years a Slave).
Watch Peele’s acceptance speech above.