Sidney Poitier and Helen Mirren were on hand to honour the Glory actor with the prestigious accolade, which has previously been presented to stars such as Robert De Niro, Robin Williams and Sean Connery.
Poitier earned a standing ovation from the audience before he took the microphone to speak about Freeman.
"In my humble opinion, sir, you are indeed a prince in the profession you have chosen," he said. "We thank you, Mr Freeman, for raising the level of excellence yet another notch. Welcome aboard, Morgan Freeman. May your journey be long and your characters continue to multiply."
Mirren took the stage next.
"After Sidney, I'm going to lower the tone somewhat," she told the crowd. "I have a bone to pick with Morgan Freeman. He's made over 50 films and I'm in one of them. Red.
"Really, Morgan, just one movie with you - for God's sake! I could have been a penguin," she added.
Morgan Freeman accepted the prize with tears in his eyes.
"Thank you very much," he said. "I can't really tell you how it feels to be up here being touted by a woman I love so much," he continued before turning to Mirren. "You know I love you. Working with you on Red was great fun... but I learned one thing.
"Watching you handle a gun makes me know I never want to p*ss you off," he said.
The actor then turned to Poitier to tell him how much it meant to him that he had received the award from a previous Cecil B. DeMille honoree.
"Getting it from you makes it clear to me that though they call this the Cecil B. DeMille Award, in my house it will also be known as the Sidney Poitier Award," Freeman said.
He then spoke to the audience, thanking them for their support.
"My passion in life has always been acting," he said. "I am truly honoured that you consider me worthy of being in that company. Thank you so much."
More from the 2012 Golden Globes:
> Meryl Streep thanks 'the people of England' for Golden Globe
> Ricky Gervais mocks Kim Kardashian, Eddie Murphy at 2012 Golden Globes
> Golden Globes 2012: TV winners in full
> Golden Globes 2012: Movie winners in full
Browse a gallery of Golden Globes winners below: