Director Jean Luc Goddard, actor Eli Wallach and film historian Kevin Brownlow were also honored Saturday night.
"I grew up in an era of boy wonders. There was Irving Thalberg, there was Orson Welles, there was Stanley Kubrick, there was John Frankenheimer, so I started as a 16-year-old and started directing plays and I would love to be a boy wonder even now at my present age," said Coppola.
The academy established its Governors Awards in 2009 to pay tribute to winners of honorary Oscars and the Thalberg bust - prizes previously presented during the Academy Awards telecast.
Academy President Tom Sherak said the new, non-televised Governors Awards allow the academy to honor more artists with more in-depth presentations.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.