The film was nominated for Best Motion Picture (Drama), but lost out to Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, which won big in the movie categories.
Winfrey, 63, the first African-American woman to be honoured with the annual Cecil B DeMille Award, used her time on stage to deliver a powerful speech about inclusion.Winfrey, who received a standing ovation twice in her eight-minute speech, said women have not been heard or believed for speaking truth to power but that has to change.
She also thanked "all of the women who I love so much in my own life who support me every single day".
However, there was no bleep to be found when she later used a slang term for excrement.
The film, which stars McDormand as a grieving single mother's anger against an arguably corrupt police department that has failed to solve the case of her daughter's rape and murder, came in with five nominations on the night.
But it was this speech from the one and only Oprah Winfrey that everyone is talking about. James Franco took home best actor in a musical or comedy for "The Disaster Artist". The top TV victor, "Big Little Lies", also won four awards. "I wouldn't be here. without my cast.my crew", he said, before giving a shout-out to "a few fantastic women" that included Hawkins, Octavia Spencer and his co-scribe Vanessa Taylor.
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Nicole Kidman has been honoured for portraying a victim of domestic violence in Big Little Lies at the 75th Golden Globe Awards, kicking off a politically-charged evening while capturing a best actress in a TV movie or miniseries.
Award recipients and presenters alike had a common theme in their discussions, with some blasting the lack of women nominees in the best-director category and others joking that some male actors should surrender part of their salaries to ensure equal pay for actresses.
McDonagh's script and supporting actor Sam Rockwell also took home awards for Three Billboards. Meanwhile, announced as the Best Motion Picture - Foreign Language was "In the Fade", a German drama directed by Fatih Akin.
After reading a quote from Atwood, she told the audience: "We no longer live in the gaps... we are the story in print and we are writing the story ourselves".
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Coming fresh off their Golden Globes win on Sunday, Amazon announced they will stream the complete series of The Marvelous Mrs. Sherman-Palladino expressed gratitude for Amazon and explained that she found a home at the streaming service.