Every chaotic season of American Horror Story ranked from worst to best
Every season is a mess, but it’s OUR mess x
I make no apologies for being a die-hard American Horror Story super fan. I live and breathe it, and have been pretty infatuated with the high camp, high concept horror anthology show since it debuted back in 2011. It’s no secret that the nine seasons of American Horror Story have (to put it lightly) varied in success, which makes getting every season ranked a chaotic feat within itself.
I’ve dedicated far too much of my life to indulging messy Ryan Murphy television. I’m in too deep and it’s quite literally sink or swim for me at this point. It doesn’t matter how dire or nonsensical AHS gets, you best believe when that new season and theme gets announced I will be waiting patiently with open arms to naively embrace whatever terror Ryan is going to make Sarah Paulson do for me next. And I love it. End of!
With FX renewing American Horror Story for another three seasons and season 10 (titled Double Feature) looming on the horizon with its August premiere date, here’s a considered ranking of every maniacal season we’ve endured over the last 10 years.
If you know someone who’s actually watched this to the end I’ll give you a tenner. Not a soul has watched this. I don’t think half the world even knows it got made. Crumbled into a mess of its own pastiche-y premise. Also stars Matthew Morrison aka Mr Schue from Glee so make of that what you will. A cursed season of telly, only endure this if you love personal pain and suffering.
I’m putting 1984 where it belongs: At the absolute rock bottom DEPTHS of a ranked American Horror Story list.
When Ryan Murphy announced that this season was going to be about America in the wake of Trump’s 2016 Presidential election win, the yawn I emitted was off the scale. Horror is innately political and always has been, but it felt like a rushed choice that was capitalising on current conversation rather than something truly tangible to sink the AHS teeth into. Do I want to watch a season about paranoia and right wing Trump supporters using public chaos to further their agenda? Not really. Some horrors are a bit too real, and the themes feel just as real four years on. Horror is often a vehicle for escapism, and in Cult the theme hit too close to home. Which could very well be the point, but it’s just not much fun to watch.
It has highs in its Valerie Solanas episode and the Manson family call backs – and Billy Eichner’s presence is absolutely delightful. However, Ally Mayfair-Richards is the most unbearable of all the many roles Sarah Paulson has undertaken during her American Horror Story reign, and her wailing and crying is so insufferable that it’s getting ranked terribly because of it.
7. Freak Show
Jessica Lange’s swan song as American Horror Story’s leading lady comes in the form of Freak Show, a muddled season that’s generally not much fun despite the fact it has Lange belting out Gods and Monsters by Lana Del Rey.
Freak Show’s gorgeous to look at and the cast is a blast, but it never seems to know what its own strengths are or how to play to them. Twisty the Clown is unceremoniously done away with too soon. Dandy Mott’s deranged delusions of grandeur are undersold. It’s just not as fun as other seasons, and nor is it scary. The best episode is when we see the origin story of Pepper from Asylum – it’s a great hour of telly. But when a season of AHS is neither fun nor scary, it is in hot water.
Hotel is just an absolute blast to look at. Lady Gaga. WOW. An icon in every shot, and deserved her Golden Globe for her formidable portrayal of the vampiric Countess who rules over the titular Hotel.
But Gaga’s impressive presence aside and if we ignore how visually arresting the season is, Hotel is such a fucking mess. It’s a shitshow actually. A car crash. It’s about vampires, it’s about a serial killer, it’s about ghosts in the hotel, it’s about a dildo drill monster, it’s about… Honestly, who even knows anymore? Certainly not Ryan Murphy. But this season is the ultimate example of me forgiving the many and frequent sins of American Horror Story – because even though it is illogical and badly plotted, it’s still kind of a great time.
American Horror Story: Apocalypse is just straight up fan service, but as a huge fan, that’s FINE BY ME!
The sequel to Murder House and Coven is something fans have been desperate for since Ryan Murphy first teased it, and this is definitely the season with the biggest scope and most batshit ambition. Cody Fern is incredible as Michael Langdon, the baby from the end of Murder House and, conveniently, the Antichrist.
The nuclear apocalypse is a bit longwinded as the season begins, but once we dive headfirst into the witches VS warlocks civil war Apocalypse is an absolutely ridiculous blast, with a cast all on top form and a joyous return from Jessica Lange.
I don’t care that Sarah Paulson has recently condemned this season as her most hated and that she wishes she never did it – Roanoke is great!
It’s the most underrated season of the show, and arguably one of the most scary. The show’s mockumentary, true crime doc premise that is the format for the first five seasons is a red herring that completely switches up with the excellent episode six. Episode six ALONE deserves Roanoke to get a high ranking – and the choice to send the re-enactment actors and the real characters back to the Roanoke house together was just great horror writing.
I love that this season reigns back the high concept and visually arresting horror for a more unsettling romp in the woods. If you don’t remember it being good, it deserves another watch and your respect!
3. Murder House
Back where it all began. When American Horror Story debuted, nobody really knew what to expect and nobody knew it was going to be an anthology show. It really mattered if the characters lived or died in a way the other seasons couldn’t ever replicate again. If your favourite dies now, who cares? The actor will be back in a different costume next season anyway!
Murder House is simplistic but well crafted. It’s just a bloody good haunted house story, and the plot of people’s spirits that die in the house not being able to leave gave all the ghosts a moving agenda in their hauntings. The rubber man was so visually arresting as a horror character, too, and has just become so iconic with the show now. Taissa Farmiga and Evan Peters’ cursed, toxic romance had the teenage girls from Tumblr finding themselves in the midst of a cultural reset. And the acting across the board… Wow. Just have a rewatch of the scene from the pilot, where Vivien and Ben are arguing about their sex life, his infidelity and her miscarriage. It’s truly spectacular. Thrillingly written, and Dylan McDermott and Connie Britton act their tits off. It’s AHS at it’s most Emmy worthy.
Coven is just so much FUN! I could rewatch it on loop tbh. It’s a blast. Everyone is on their finest form, the witch lore is a hoot and whilst it’s not the most cohesive or the objective best – it has so much quotability and replay value that it doesn’t matter.
Jessica Lange as the narcissistic supreme Fiona Goode is one of the most iconic performances I’ve ever seen. Fiona Goode is a horror matriarch for the ages – unruly, powerful, camp and severe. Emma Roberts made herself an American Horror Story mainstay as the gays’ fave Madison Montgomery – and her “surprise bitch! Bet you thought you’d seen the last of me” has been immortalised in the pop culture history books forever. Angela Bassett and Kathy Bates also became AHS regulars with their legendary portrayals of real life historical figures Madame Delphine LaLaurie and voodoo priestess Marie LaVeau, and their face offs are a highlight. The discussions of racism throughout Coven are also extremely powerful, Gabourey Sidibe educating slave owner LaLaurie is such TV.
Coven is comfort blanket American Horror Story, and gets a great place when ranked for rewatchability alone.
Asylum was the first American Horror Story I ever watched and I was shaken to my core. It’s unrelenting, it’s bizarre and it’s one of the most ambitious horror stories ever told in the genre. On or off the big screen!
Asylum juggles a lot of plates and manages to not drop the majority, which when you’re telling a story that centres around a serial killer in the past and present, Nazi doctors, demonic possession, aliens and forest zombie things is an absolute feat in itself. And that’s before even mentioning the terror of the mental health practices of the 1960s that make up the crux of the season’s plot and setting.
Asylum’s heroine in Lana Winters really solidified Sarah Paulson as the franchise’s final girl – a scream queen for the ages that brings so much to her role. As lesbian journalist Lana Winters, we get to navigate the horrors of Sister Jude’s asylum first hand. It’s a season that always terrifies, always shocks (Anne Frank, anyone?) and solidified that American Horror Story would bring back anthology horror in a big way.
Also: The Name Game. The Name Game ALONE gives American Horror Story: Asylum the ranked top spot. A rollercoaster season of television that has to be sat back and marvelled at.