Compilation of American Horror Story artwork over the season. Left to right: Murder House, Asylum, Coven, Freak Show, Hotel, Roanoke, Cult

From Worst to Best: The Seasons of “American Horror Story,” Ranked

Ah, “American Horror Story:” a popular cult classic show (see what I did there?) beloved by numerous fans…maybe disconcertingly so, but you know, it’s just that good. Even I finally watched it, and I don’t usually like horror anything.

The ninth season of this fascinating show, “AHS: 1984,” just aired. This season supposedly will be everything awesome and familiar of ’80s slasher films — and since it’s AHS, I have high hopes it will be well done.

I began the show right around the time “Apocalypse,” aka season 8, began airing. The first time I had ever heard of the show was my freshman year of college, when “Hotel” (season 4) had begun right as the semester started. I didn’t get the hype then, but oh my lord do I get it now.

Now for the part you’re actually here for:

From worst to best, this is my ranking of the eight seasons of AHS:

8. Roanoke

I know most people hate “Apocalypse” the most, but frankly, I disliked “Roanoke” even more. Something about this season just didn’t grab me like the other seasons – I mean, I couldn’t even finish “Roanoke.”

Part of it was the lack of clarity on what was happening. The show-within-a-show model of the first half of “Roanoke” took some time to realize “oh, that’s what’s going on.” Going back and forth from the “testimonials” and the “re-enactment” didn’t help either. An interesting concept, but confusing.

It got even more confusing when halfway through the season, the plot switches and the two casts are now together. The second half of “Roanoke” was also extremely gory and visceral – even for AHS. I mean Christ, all but one character is dead by the end!

Also, for a season titled “Roanoke,” you would think the fictionalized story behind the mysteriously vanished colony would do something less…magical, not the whole “This lady killed the entire colony so the witch could have their souls.” I had expected something more realistic, more in line with real potential reasons behind the Roanoke disappearance. It would have been a nice separation from the other seasons…well, at least they used that for “Cult.”

7. Apocalypse

Yes, “Apocalypse” is basically “Coven 2.0.” Even creator Ryan Murphy said it in a since-deleted Tweet supposedly from June 2018:

This totally took away from what makes the show so good: the new, original storylines presented each season, with the occasional ties to past seasons – ties, not full-on continuations.

The tie-back to “Murder House” was well-done and answered a lot of questions I had about what became of Michael, considering how the first season ended. However, this throwback was pretty much a given move.

Yes, this was not at all what one would expect a season of AHS titled “Apocalypse” to be about. Excepting Michael Langdon being the harbinger of said apocalypse. I saw that coming from “Murder House” – I mean, Billie Dean straight up said the child of a spirit and the living would bring about the apocalypse. (Also, he is unfairly attractive for a bad guy.)

But nuclear war? THAT is how they decide to end the world? Talk about unoriginal – and it didn’t really make sense how the nuclear war even came to be until the second-to-last episode, when it’s clarified that oh hey, the bringer of the apocalypse falls in with Satanists and the Illuminati (even more unoriginal) and that’s how the nuclear war is set into motion.

Also, the way the timeline was done made no sense. Why do the first three episodes in the post-apocalyptic world, with the remaining seven primarily taking place pre-apocalypse to give you the background? The whole “telling the story backward” tactic may have worked for “American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace,” but it just wasn’t well executed here.

6. Murder House

Ah, the first season, the one that kicked off our obsession with some messed-up yet captivating content. I know most fans like this season, but as I re-watch it, I’m realizing that it just isn’t as good as the other seasons.

To start, the Harmons were so. Annoying. Viv had zero reason to stay with Ben after the crap he put her through, but she inexplicably does despite clearly being mad at him for most of the season – and ends up subjecting herself to even more pain, psychologically and emotionally. And Ben…I know you aren’t supposed to like him anyways, but GOOD LORD, what an absolute asshole. His wife goes through a miscarriage and he cheats on her, lies to her repeatedly after the fact, and tries to repeatedly play the victim in everything that happened.

How I feel about Ben (and yes, I chose this GIF on purpose).

I did love the concept of “anyone who died on these grounds is stuck here.” That fascinated me, especially once Billie Dean basically describes it as a “psychic dark hole.”

It was so well done throughout the season, and I loved being shown the stories behind the different ghosts. Although I am still curious as to how Constance discovered that.

5. Coven

This one takes the middle spot for me. I know most fans love this season, and it’s definitely good — it just isn’t my favorite.

What stands out the most to me in this season is the characters. The young witches were exactly what a sisterhood should be: there for each other, having each other’s backs -— even in competition to become the next Supreme. These girls are relatable and real — yes, even Madison Montgomery (Emma Roberts). We all knew a girl in high school like her. But I particularly liked Misty Day — definitely one of my favorite AHS performances by Lily Rabe.

Jessica Lange and Angela Bassett were AMAZING in “Coven” — their performances in this season were my favorites from them. (Although I don’t love that Angela Bassett got stuck with a racial stereotype character, even if it did fit the story.)

Kathy Bates as Delphine LaLaurie was my favorite performance from her in AHS. She was completely abhorrent!! Kathy breathed such a life into the character. Between her acting talents and how her story was told, I have never hated a fictional character as much as I did LaLaurie.

My biggest pet peeve was Cordelia and the back-and-forth in her sight and character development. I still don’t quite feel like she was worthy of the Supreme, but what do I know…

4. Hotel

I could go on about this season and the good/bad of it, considering how packed it is. Everyone seems to hate the season but I actually dug it – even though they reused the whole “if you die here, you’re stuck here forever” bit from “Murder House.” They did a good job with it, though (mostly).

Lady Gaga as the Countess was the best casting choice. Who else could portray a dark, twisted vampire character like the queen of weird herself? (I mean that in a good way, trust me.) She also has some good acting skills, which she exercised to the max.

Iris (Kathy Bates) and Liz Taylor (Denis O’Hare) were two of my favorites. Their relationship throughout the show is my kind of friendship goals. And when they go into the penthouse, guns blazing, in the eleventh episode? So. Bad-ass. Liz’s death scene nearly made me cry, though.

The Ten Commandments Killer thing was insane. I liked how you learn John Lowe (Wes Bentley) was possessed to continue James March’s (Evan Peters) work -— I did not see that plot twist coming at all.

Speaking of Peters, the dude got a rough end of the bargain this season. He can act, but March required an older actor to play the role — especially since he was paired opposite Lady Gaga, who clearly looks and is older than the young-faced Peters. James March just wasn’t the best fit for him. The mustache was clearly fake and only contributed to the off-ness of the performance. That’s not to say it was a bad one — he just was working with a character that just was not a good fit for him.

The one thing I didn’t understand and that was not explained was the whole “sewing dead bodies into the mattresses” thing. There’s a whole Reddit thread of people theorizing about it, so at least I know I didn’t miss something. (Although if I did, comment below — I’m so curious.)

And can we note that this season had a mostly happy ending??

3. Cult

This season was VERY well done and scared the absolute crap out of me in how close to reality it came. Like, “watched the intro and had to stop watching for a while because it felt too real” close. This season was one of the hardest to watch because of the not-so-alternative reality depicted in “Cult.”

Also, clowns…I hate them so much. So, thank you AHS writers for making Ally’s (Sarah Paulson) character deathly afraid of them, there were a lot of moments I couldn’t look at the screen for thanks to those horrid masks.

Ally, by the way, had one of the best character arcs I’ve ever seen. She goes from a woman scared of everything and barely able to function, to the survivor of a cult who has overcome her fears, murdered her wife (this was the biggie), and become a political leader. This season had one of my favorite performances from her on the show.

2. Freak Show

“Freak Show” was a GREAT, super well-done season. It was very sad quite often, but still, well done. I loved the connection to “Asylum,” that we got to see Pepper happy and free — and in love!

Twisty, I mean holy CRAP. That clown was so unnerving, he scared the crap out of me, especially once the mask comes off. But his backstory was actually so, so sad — it honestly made me kind of glad he was taken by Mordrake as a form of redemption.

Dandy (who pissed me off and mildly reminded me of Chuck Bass from “Gossip Girl”) is a complete, utter psychopath who only got worse after watching Twisty was intense. I’m still furious to this day that he killed so much of the freaks.

The one thing I did not like is the false endings, particularly in how they were depicted exactly like the real endings. That threw me off on what exactly was happening — especially the one where you saw the twins’ decapitated heads and shoulders in the case?? We saw Jimmy Darling’s (Evan Peters) hands, Ma Petite (the most heartbreaking thing EVER), and more that were all real…ah well.

1. Asylum

This season was so amazingly well done. The characters and their arcs, the storylines, all of it.

Jessica Lange’s character, Sister Jude, was a TOTAL BITCH but also had an interesting backstory that once you learned it, almost made you forgive her for being so intense on the patients. Almost.

Lily Rabe’s performance as Sister Mary Eunice was amazing. The switch from the shy, easily-frightened and innocent nun to a cold, manipulative bitch after being possessed is pulled off so well, you almost forget the two personalities are from the same character.

Dr. Arden as a secondary antagonist (after Bloody Face/Dr. Thredson)…god I wanted to punch him in the throat. His obsession with “science to create a better human race” is no new bad-guy-motivation, but the fact that he used to be a Nazi doctor? And his disgusting treatment of not just the patients, but Sister Jude as well simply because he knew she could expose him? Cue all the angry swearing emojis.

The one thing that pisses me off about this season is the whole “aliens” plot — which was never explained or finished. They were introduced to frame Kit, but nothing was explained as to why these aliens came and took him and his wife, or what they were trying to do — even the AHS Wiki page on the extraterrestrials guys had nothing. (If anyone does know or has good theories, comment below — I’m thoroughly curious.)

And this will forever be one of my favorite AHS moments:

What’s your favorite AHS season? Comment below so we can dish as fellow fans.

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