Roman Polanski's Holocaust drama The Pianist, set during World War II against the background of the Nazi occupation of Poland, swept the top French film awards on Saturday, February 22, 2003, in Paris. Winning a total of seven Cesars, The Pianist was voted best film, while Polanski won the award for best director, and Adrien Brody, who plays the title role in the movie, won best actor (and is believed to be the first American to receive this accolade at France's top film honors).

The Pianist also won for best screenplay or adaptation, best set, best photography and best original music for Wojciech Kilar's score. The film also enjoyed wins in almost all design categories (except costumes) with Pawel Edelman winning for cinematography, Allan Starski for set design, and Jean-Marie Blondel, Gerard Hardy, Dean Humphreys for sound design.