President Barack Obama recognised the pair, alongside Gloria and Emilio Estefan, singer James Taylor, composer Stephen Sondheim, violinist Itzhak Perlman and baseball legends Willie Mays and Yogi Berra, among others.

Before handing out the medals, Obama told the gathered media, "Today we celebrate some extraordinary people: innovators, artists and leaders who contribute to America's strength as a nation.

"This is an extraordinary group. Even by the standards of Medal of Freedom winners, this is a class act. What an incredible tapestry this country is and what a great blessing to be in a nation where individuals as diverse, (from) wildly different backgrounds, can help to shape our dreams, how we live together, help define justice and freedom and love. They represent what's best in us and we are very, very proud to welcome them today."

Spielberg was in for another treat after the medals were presented - the theme from his movie E.T. The Extra Terrestrial was played as Obama congratulated each recipient.