The Cannes Film Festival jury, headed by the Coen brothers, said Sunday it was profoundly changed by the experience of judging this year's entries.
"Any experience as intense as this changes your life and your perspective," said Joel Coen, who was joint president with his brother Ethan.
"Having to see this many movies this intensely and then going in and discussing them with a group like this profoundly changes your perspective as an audience member in a very positive way," he said.
Canadian actor-director Xavier Dolan, the youngest jury member at just 26, went further in saying: "I somehow feel like a better person."
"Never have I discussed movies with such depth, generosity and emotion, and with such intelligent company," he said.
Spanish actress Rossy de Palma said she loved the experience.
"I was making love to cinema all day!" she said.
"I knew it before but I really realised how difficult it is to make a good movie, and now I appreciate it much more," she added.
The nine-person jury gave the top Palme d'Or prize to "Dheepan", a French drama about Sri Lankan refugees struggling to make a new life in a tough Paris suburb, which actor and jury member Jake Gyllenhaal said was "very invigorating".
"We watch three strangers, forced to travel to a foreign land, essentially learn to love each other, which is something I've never really seen done in the way it is in that film," said Gyllenhaal.
One of the jury's most surprising decisions was to reward Rooney Mara for her turn in lesbian love story "Carol" when many critics had predicted victory for her co-star Cate Blanchett. Mara shared the award with French actress Emmanuelle Bercot for the film "Mon Roi".
"We didn't split the award further because it wasn't allowed by the rules," said Ethan Coen.
Dolan said the jury had noted a general lack of strong female roles in the selection of 19 entries.
"We did realise there were very few leading ladies and that makes the job a little more tricky," he said.
The jury, which also included actresses Sienna Miller and Sophie Marceau, as well as fantasy director Guillermo del Toro and singer Rokia Traore, gave the runner-up Grand Prize to visceral Holocaust drama "Son of Saul".
"I had a deeply emotional response to 'Son of Saul'. I was really in that world. It shook me very deeply," said Miller.
Del Toro, known for "Hellboy" and "Pan's Labyrinth", paid tribute to Taiwanese filmmaker Hou Hsiao-hsien, who won best director for slow-burning minimalist drama "The Assassin".
"You recognise the mastery and the clarity and the achievement -- the clarity of his voice, the precision of his filmmaking," said Del Toro.