The actor beat out the likes of Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals), Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water), Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea) and BAFTA winner Dev Patel (Lion) to take the trophy for one of the most hotly contested categories of the evening.
Coming-of-age drama Moonlight follows protagonist Chiron through three stages of his life; Ali plays Juan, a crack dealer who takes Chiron under his wing to protect him from the emotional abuse dealt out by his mother (Naomie Harris).
The actor, who became a father just last week, was handed the award by last year's Supporting Actress Winner Alicia Vikander. Following a standing ovation from spectators, Ali gave an emotional speech in which he praised the film which was a breakout hit following its debut at last year's festival season.
“I had so many wonderful teachers [growing up], and one thing that they consistently told me was it wasn’t about you, it’s not about you. It’s about these characters. You’re in service to these stories and these characters. And I’m so blessed to have had an opportunity [to do that].”
Ali also stars in Best Picture nominee Hidden Figures.
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