Director Stephen Frears has been honoured with a fellowship from the British Film Institute (BFI) which he joked made him feel "geriatric".
The 73-year-old film-maker was presented with his award by British playwright and screenwriter Sir David Hare during the London Film Festival Awards ceremony at Banqueting House.
Frears said of the accolade: "It feels very, very nice".
But he admitted he did not like to look back over his career.
"It's not over yet", he insisted.
The acclaimed director's diverse body of work includes Philomena, starring Dame Judi Dench, The Queen, starring Dame Helen Mirren, Tamara Drewe, High Fidelity, and Dangerous Liaisons.
His 1985 My Beautiful Launderette won critical acclaim for tackling issues of homosexuality and race.
John Hurt, who starred in Frears' first big screen film, The Hit, in 1984, said: "He's made some wonderful films, from the big commercial ones - and he's very funny about those and what happened after those and how he retreated back to things he could understand more. Which was things that actually just don't cost as much, and I think that's where his best work is.
"He made some wonderful things for the BBC even before he was making things for the big screen.
"I thought My Beautiful Laundrette was a brilliant film, and ground-breaking. And so were many of them."
Frears is currently working on a biopic about drug-shamed cyclist Lance Armstrong.
He revealed: "I've almost finished it. I'll finish it in the new year, it's nearly finished."
He promised Ben Foster was "wonderful" as Armstrong.
The winner of the festival's Official Film competition went to Leviathan, from Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev.
It tells the tragic tale of conflict between an individual and a corrupt system in a small Russian town.
The jury also commended Celine Sciamma's Girlhood, about a young woman's search for identity in the under-privileged suburbs of Paris.
The Sutherland Award for Best Feature went to Ukranian director Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy for The Tribe, a drama set in a school for young, deaf people and acted entirely in sign language.
The Grierson Award for best documentary went to Silvered Water, Ossama Mohammed and Wiam Simav Bedirxan's eye-opening film about living in the midst of civil war in Syria.
And Best British Newcomer went to young actress Sameena Jabeen Ahmed for her performance in Catch Me Daddy.
Guests at the ceremony included X-Men star James McAvoy and his wife Anne-Marie Duff, comedian Ben Miller and actor-turned-director Dexter Fletcher.
Dame Helen Mirren and Dame Judi Dench were among the stars who sent video messages of congratulations to Frears.
Mirren, who worked with Frears on The Queen, said: "Many, many congratulations Stephen. You are one of the greats of this industry.
"It's quite astounding. I wish I could be there with you to raise a toast, but I'm in New Orleans, poor me.
"But I wish I could be there just to see what shoes you are wearing. Do you have any food down your front? You probably do."
Frears collected the award wearing a pristine dinner jacker with trainers.
Dench said in her message: "He laughs a lot, he's got a great sense of humour.
"I love working with him, just love it. He just makes you want to work every day, you want to be in same studio as he is."
Accepting his award Frears said: "My mother would be surprised that I'm standing here. She'd still be wondering when I'm going to get a proper job. I think she thought I'd end up in prison."
But the director went on to reminisce about his childhood, being taken to the cinema by his mother, which sparked his love of film.
Frears quipped: "Blimey I was lucky. I've been making films for 50 years about what the French call 'the marginals'. Pakistanis, the Irish, homosexuals, women ... the Queen."
He paid tribute to all the women he has worked with over the years in what he admitted was a "man's industry".
And finally he paid tribute to his wife, calling her "my partner, the mother of my children, the artist and gardener, Anne Rothenstein".
He added: "I never set out to be a film director, it's been an accident. She has taught me what being creative means, so I'm very lucky."
Backstage Frears admitted he felt overwhelmed, and said of the award: "It's a great compliment. But you just go on working, don't you?"