Since its founding in 2008, GKIDS has been the leading North American distributor of animation worldwide. From the fantastical works of traditional Cartoon Saloon animation to the magical and awe-inspiring animated films of Studio Ghibli, they have released many of the greatest animated films ever made.
Almost all of their films have received “Fresh” ratings from review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, and a few have even earned perfect or near-perfect percentage scores. These are the best of the best, the films that made GKIDS the cinematic icon it is today.
ten My zucchini life – 98%
my zucchini life follows Icarus, a young boy sent to an orphanage after the death of his alcoholic mother. He befriends a nice policeman and finds camaraderie and friendship with the other children in the orphanage.
Co-written by Portrait of a lady on fire director Céline Sciamma, my zucchini life received critical acclaim for its warmth, maturity and emotional depth. It was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, one of the few stop motion films to get that honor.
9 Song of the Sea – 99%
The second film in Tomm Moore’s Irish folk trilogy, song of the sea follows a boy named Ben who discovers that his mute little sister Saoirse is a Selkie, a seal that can transform into a human. Immersed in a mystical world of adventure and danger, Ben and Saoirse must work together to find their way home.
song of the seaIts timeless story and unique animation made it a hit with critics and audiences alike. Many fans have (rightly) compared it to the fantastic works of Disney and Studio Ghibli.
8 Wolf Walkers – 99%
by Tom Moore wolf walkers follows Robyn, an aspiring young hunter whose father has been appointed to exterminate the pack of wolves living in the forest around an Irish town. But when Robyn meets Mebh, a free-spirited girl who turns into a wolf at night, she realizes that this forest is so much more than she thought.
wolf walkers came six years later song of the sea and became the animation studio Cartoon Saloon’s most acclaimed film to date. Like all the other Cartoon Saloon films, it was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.
7 Approved for adoption – 100%
An anime drama based on the life of co-director Jung Henin, Approved for adoption follows a Korean boy adopted into a Belgian family after the Korean War. As he gets older, he begins to question his cultural identity and tries to rediscover his lost roots.
Approved for adoption interweaves animation with stock footage to create an experience like no other. Hailed by critics as an intelligent and poignant look at adoption and family, it’s one of many GKIDS films to receive a perfect critical rating from Rotten Tomatoes.
6 Mind game – 100%
Renowned Japanese animator Masaaki Yuasa found success with his 2004 adaptation of the manga series Psychological game. Crossing between several different animation styles, Psychological game tells the story of 20-year-old Nishi and his increasingly bizarre journey to heaven and back.
An experimental masterpiece that quickly became a hit with international audiences, Psychological game bends the limits of what animation can do at every turn. Praised by prestigious animation directors such as Satoshi Kon and Bill Plympton, it is a must-see film for any lover of surrealism.
5 On-Gaku: Our sound – 100%
On-Gaku! Our sound tells the story of three directionless high school kids who find joy and fulfillment in the world of rock-and-roll and decide to start a band. The only problem is that none of them have musical talent, but that doesn’t matter to them anyway.
A thunderous comedy about the pleasure of doing something as a team, regardless of the limits, On-Gaku! Our sound was a hit with critics. His creative art style and unique sense of humor easily make him one of GKIDS’ most unique releases.
4 Okko Inn – 100%
Okko’s Inn is a light but heartbreaking animated film about a girl who moves into her grandmother’s inn in the countryside after the death of her parents. There, she meets a group of friendly spirits who train her to become an innkeeper.
Directed by Kitarō Kōsaka, an animator who worked on many early Studio Ghibli films, Okko’s Inn is another GKIDS title that didn’t deserve a single negative review. It’s the perfect family movie for Ghibli fans, with a charming, sentimental story and incredibly endearing characters.
3 Sita sings the blues – 100%
In Sita sings the blues, host Nina Paley gives an autobiographical account of her separation from her husband as they begin to go their separate ways after he takes a job in India. This story is accompanied by a parallel narrative taking elements from Ramayanaan ancient Indian epic, and focusing on the goddess Sita.
Although he received a mixed response from Hindu organizations for his depiction of the Ramayana and several of his personalities, Sita sings the blues was ultimately a critical success. Paley’s blending of multiple artistic styles throughout the film’s 80-minute runtime was particularly praised.
2 Only yesterday – 100%
the Grave of the Fireflies director Isao Takahata further proved his status as one of animation’s most talented directors with Only yesterday. The film follows a woman whose journey to her hometown brings back childhood memories and makes her wonder if her life has turned out the way her younger self would have wanted.
One of the studio’s first forays into more adult-oriented stories, Only yesterday is an underrated Studio Ghibli film that is an incredibly important part of their illustrious filmography. Interestingly, it wasn’t available in the US until 2016, when GKIDS released the film theatrically for its 25th anniversary.
1 The Story of Princess Kaguya – 100%
Isao Takahata’s latest film, the whimsically animated fantasy The Tale of Princess Kaguya, is based on a centuries-old story. A bamboo cutter discovers a baby inside a glowing bamboo stalk, and he and his wife raise it as their child. She quickly becomes a young woman whose wealth and beauty attract a variety of overconfident suitors.
Considered one of the finest achievements of Takahata and Studio Ghibli overall, The Tale of Princess Kaguya is an animated fable of heartbreaking beauty. It’s fitting that such a flawless work is also the most expensive Japanese film of all time, with a budget of nearly $50 million.
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