Some friends of mine rewatch Friends or How I Met Your Mother every three months. Generally, horror movies don’t inspire that kind of fervor. They come and go, one after another, trying to rope audiences into the endeavor. Most people enjoy watching horror with their squeamish friends and savor their fearful expressions more than the show itself. Once it’s over, I don’t think they would rewatch again. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
Still, we do have an exception. Every Halloween, people would start mentioning Ryan Murphy’s wildest series and how perfect it is to set the tone for this season. Yes, you know what I’m talking about American Horror Story. There was no coincidence that this engrossing TV show became the third most-watched scripted drama on cable after a few episodes. It’s the perfect blend of creepy and ominosity, with a touch of sarcasm and dark humor.
Since this series is quite complicated, I have received a few questions like “what is the best season?” or “should I watch American Horror Story in order?” In this article, let’s take a look at all 9 previous American Horror Story seasons ranked from worst to best.
American Horror Story Seasons Ranked No. 9 – Hotel
The 5th season of American Horror Story takes place in the enigmatic Hotel Cortez in Los Angeles, California. Owned by a mysterious madame, Cortez had been serving as the host of countless disturbing cases and paranormal events for many years. This hotel quickly caught the attention of Bentley, an intrepid homicide detective.
This season marked the departure of Jessica Lange. This is shocking news for all AHS fans because she was considered one of the series’ representative faces for four years straight. As compensation, Lady Gaga was brought in her place. Truth be told, Lange’s decision came as a discouragement for me. Still, I watched Hotel anyway because I wanted to see how Lady Gaga would fulfill her role as an actress.
Lady Gaga as Elizabeth Johnson – Source: Decider
Gaga’s performance was much better than I thought it would be. Let’s admit it: She suited the theme of the show, and she had the potential to deliver more of a mysterious and alluring countess.
Unfortunately, Ryan Murphy and his crew didn’t give her much chance to shine. Throughout the season, all she did was a bit more than polishing nails. We could hardly see her act, or even speak, for that matter. Of course, it disappointed both the audiences and Lady Gaga’s fans in general.
That wasn’t the only problem. Both thematically and plot-wise, Hotel was simply all over the place, with the serial killer investigation fell flat and the vampire element was a bit overdone. Seems like after four seasons, Murphy, with his anything-goes approach, had run out of ideas to scare audiences.
Hence, he decided to go with over-the-top depictions of horrendous gore. While the last few seasons of AHS didn’t rely on typical horror tropes 100% of the time, in Hotel, all you can see is a man nailed to a headboard, with bloody body parts here and there, as disjointed as the storyline. It makes Hotel appear more gross than engrossing. That’s the reason why it’s ranked as the worst American Horror Story season by far.
American Horror Story Seasons Ranked No.8 – Cult
The 7th season of AHS brought an exciting plot to the table. As a result of the 2016 Election Night, the fictional city of Brookfield, Michigan, is torn apart by a nasty cult leader (Evan Peters) who uses fear as a weapon. We can see that for Cult, Ryan Murphy thought it was wiser to rely more on real-life drama than supernatural haunts.
Cult is a bitter reaction to Donald Trump’s election but in a wittingly sarcastic way. Whatever he might say, Murphy had his own motive to set the season in Michigan – the infamous battleground state. He created an Ally Mayfair-Richard (Sarah Paulson) with several anxiety and phobias to depict how those who opposed Trump felt. He delivered a message about the way people hold onto power by leveraging the fear of others. Some people might argue, but for me, the fact that Cult is based entirely on real-life events is what makes it intriguing.
American Horror Story: Cult – Theatrical Trailer
We all know that Sarah’s roles are never predictable. She had a perfect transition from a devastating snowflake to a psyche woman in the end. As for Peter, I didn’t notice him until I realized that the character he portrayed wasn’t 100% Trump-like. More than that, he also took on the personality traits of five other cult leaders in history. Within one season, we can witness Peter’s incredible flexibility. I wonder why he has never gotten an Emmy nomination yet, but I’m sure his time will come soon with all of this potential.
However, the advantage of Cult ends here. Despite having a nice start, the plot lost its strength halfway and officially flew off the rail after the Valerie Solanas episode. While audiences were expecting a bloody battle between the right and the left, Murphy instead forced an awkward bond between them. Feels like he was saying in our faces that we were all susceptible to the power of fear. It didn’t seem relatable, especially in comparison to the real-life situation.
Even if you just want to enjoy a good horror series without paying attention to politics or accurate representation, Cult was rather boring. The most daunted scene turned out to be a fantasy, meant to make way for the diabolical clowns’ attack. Aside from that, none of the masked terrorists offer any personality nor character development, making them feel fake.
It is explainable that Cult ended up with an audience score of only 52% on Rotten Tomatoes. Just as movie critic Jen Chaney wrote in The New York Times, the season ultimately feels like a missed opportunity.
American Horror Story Seasons Ranked No.7 – 1984
The ninth season of American Horror Story, 1984, surrounds Brooke Thompson (Emma Roberts), who the Night Stalker attacked. She then decided to leave the town with her friends and took on the new position as a counselor at the newly opened Camp Redwood. On the way there, though, they struck a hiker on the road.
John Carroll Lynch has never let us down, and his performance in 1984 was as flawless as ever. The role of Benjamin Richter gave Lynch a juicy opportunity to show off his acting skill, and he proved that he could be both a maniac slasher and a protective father tortured with guilt after the death of his brother. The chemistry between him and Lily Rabe (who played his mother) was excellent too, and without a doubt, the two were MVPs of this season.
Emma Roberts portrayed as Brooke Thompsons – Source: IndieWire
Still, that alone is not enough to save 1984. There were too many unnecessary characters that messed up the plot. What’s the point of the Night Stalker? What role did Dylan McDermott’s serial killer character serve? So the primary purpose of this season is to pay homage to the 1980s slasher movies or reveal what makes serial killers tick? Even after watching the whole season, I still had no idea.
Just like the 5th season, Hotel 1984 presented a lot of gore yet hardly triggered deep fear. If I have to compare, I’d say it is more like a season of Scream Queen instead of AHS. The season could have been better if it focused more on the curse surrounding Camp Redwood. It’s ranked higher than Hotel simply because all the characters had their places to shine.
American Horror Story Seasons Ranked No.6 – Freakshow
The 4th season of AHS began when a troop of human curiosities had just arrived in town. At the same time, a dark entity emerged from the shadows began to threaten the lives of both residents and freaks alike.
I adore Lily Rabe, and her reappearance as Sister Mary Eunice in Freakshow is an absolute highlight. Aside from that, I value the crew’s effort in casting people with the appropriate physical states to play the roles of “freaks”.
You get to see Mary Eunice again in Freak Show – Source: Entertainment Tonight
And yes, in the beginning, Freakshow had the potential to become one of the best. Sarah Paulson, given the role of conjoined twins, could show off her considerable acting skills. Jessica Lange got the character she performed best with Elsa Mars, and everyone was expecting Michael Chiklis to be a great addition to the series.
The musical numbers, on the other hand, were strangely off-putting. As the season was reaching its end, it gradually lost its stem. Well, AHS fans must have gotten used to this. It’s very unfortunate because the supporting cast of “freaks” did a fantastic job. Personally, I got high hope for Finn Wittrock. His role as Dandy Mott started as an interesting villain with layers of personality depth. However, as the show processed, Ryan Murphy’s team seemed to lose track of what to do with Dandy. In the last episode, his shooting storm seemed like a negligent way to wrap things up.
American Horror Story Season 4 Trailer
As you can see, the talented cast and interesting characters could not cover the haphazard storytelling.
American Horror Story Seasons Ranked No.5 – Coven
Based on the real-life event Salem witch trials, Coven sets in 300 years after the occurrence. Those who managed to escape were on the verge of distinction. As mysterious attacks targeted them, young girls had to be sent away to a special school in New Orlean and equip themselves with self-defense skills. Zoe (Taissa Farmiga), a newcomer, was caught up in the chaos and harbored a terrifying secret of her own. Fearing for her people, Fiona (Jessica Lange), the Coven’s long-absent Supreme, returned to town. She was hell-bent on destroying anyone who stood in her way.
After it was on-air, Coven created quite a polarized controversy. People either loved it or hated it, and there was no between.
Let’s talk about the strong points first. Stevie Nicks’ cameo deserves recognition. I also want to compliment Angela Bassett and Kathy Bates’ acting. As these two were in the cast, Lange and Paulson were saved from carrying the whole season on their shoulders. Furthermore, Lily Rabe’s role as Misty Day could be count as one of her best works in the entire series. Rabe has always been the hidden gem of AHS: Her performance wasn’t as flashy as others, but she was just as good.
“Coven” has a strong lineup – Source: The New York Times
Regarding the plot, season 3 included a lot of frivolities, which I found intriguing. Sure, AHS is a horror series, but some smart sense of humor to balance the tone does no harm. Some of the best horror movies of the decades use levity wisely, and I wish Ryan Murphy could do that, too.
Still, l had to say that the plot was not as strong as some other seasons. The test of the Seven Wonders was unrelatable to the whole show, and Delphine LaLauria was simply out of place. That was a shame because Kathy Bates could do much more than that. They could have given her more character development.
Based on an 85% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and 7.24/10 on IMDb, we can still see that Coven has done a fairly good job.
American Horror Story Seasons Ranked No.4 – Apocalypse
In the eighth season of American Horror Story, audiences explore the world after a nuclear war. Elite survivors lived in secure Outposts built by the eerie Cooperative. Ms. Wilhemina Venable (Sarah Paulson) and Ms. Miriam Mead (Kathy Bates) were in charge of Outpost Three on the American West Coast. When Michael Langdon (Cody Fern), a Cooperative representative determined to save society by creating a secret paradise, showed up unexpectedly, everything ended up in chaos. Beneath the surface of humanity’s salvation lies a final battleground between good and evil.
American Horror Story Season 8 Trailer
It gave me quite a headache to determine Apocalypse’s rank. If we consider only the “Murder House” and “Coven” crossover, this one will be ranked top. If we are talking about Michael Langdon’s arc, however, it will be somewhere near the bottom. But if all we pay attention to is Apocalypse’s plot alone? Well, then it is placed in the middle.
The first couple of episodes that revealed the apocalypse and people chosen to live in secret bunkers were interesting enough to trigger my curiosity. The next few episodes, unfortunately, let me down when it switched focus to witches, warlocks, and adult Michael Langdon. It then shifted back to the pre-apocalyptic world as the witches worked to prevent Langdon from becoming the new Supreme, as his popularity kept rising among Satanists. Overall, the plot was kind of a mess.
Still, the “Murder House” and “Coven” crossover did justice for AHS’s long-term audiences. I had a good laugh seeing Ben Harmon’s cry-masturbating scene again – he surely deserved the title “the tearjerker”.
American Horror Story Seasons Ranked No.3 – Roanoke
The sixth season of AHS presented itself as part of a documentary series called “My Roanoke Nightmare”. It surrounds an integrated couple (Shelby and Matt Miller) who just got a home in the woods of Dare, North Carolina. The house, of course, turned out to be haunted. It used to be a nursing home owned by a pair of villainous sisters who butchered their clients.
Presenting a movie in the form of footage is nothing new. We have seen it in Cannibal Holocaust, Incident At Loch Ness, The Collingswood Story, The Blair Witch, Paranormal Activities, and many more. Despite all that, found footage remains a tricky device to pull off. In this case, though, Roanoke has done a good job. The found-footage style set an eerie tone and atmosphere that conventional filming methods cannot create. Of course, we will still see comments compare Roanoke to The Blair Witch, but that’s inevitable.
Unlike other AHS seasons, Ryan Murphy revealed very little information about Roanoke before it was aired. We soon got the answer: It connected every other season. Roanoke explained how the Mott family in Freak Show began, gave major flashbacks to The Murder House, recalled the mental ward from Asylum, and so on. The way season 6 linked to others was so subtle yet clever, which surprised me because, at this point, AHS already bore a complicated plot.
Roanoke links every season together – Source: Vanity Fair
Is that the only good thing about Roanoke, though? So you cannot realize the highlight of Roanoke if you haven’t watched other seasons? Even as an independent series, the plot of season 6 was well-executed and offered to comprehend storytelling. Ryan Murphy and his co pulled it off brilliantly with a mid-season twist of putting everyone involved in the Roanoke documentary back into the nightmare. Definitely deserves a place in the top 3.
No.2 – Asylum
American Horror Story: Asylum began in the present day when a newlywed couple, Teresa and Leo, was on their way to explore the abandoned Briarcliff Manor. It was known as a former insane asylum filled with ghosts and paranormal activities. Then, it took viewers back to 1964 when Kit Walker was locked there under the accusation of being a serial killer.
American Horror Story Season 2 Trailer
Nearly every aspect of this season worked for me. Firstly, all the characters in Asylum were well-developed. All of them had in-depth plotlines (I’m not talking about Chloë Sevigny’s character, mind you). Jessica Lange’s role as Sister Jude received all the recognition, but for me, Sarah Paulson’s portrayal as Lana Winter nailed every scene. From her imprisonment and aversion therapy to the final murder of her son, Lana Banana is the best character you can ask for in the whole AHS series.
Asylum jumped from place to place. Satan, serial killers, Nazi mutation experiments, aliens, … season 2 got it all. It is remarkable that the season still managed to keep it all together throughout 13 episodes with all of those aspects. They fit into the plot perfectly, which most other seasons could not do.
It feels like after season 2, AHS struggled to stick the landing each and every season. In Asylum, though, the main focus was only one: Lana and her journey to find peace. Even when she went through a twist in personality and ended up stabbing her son, Lana’s goal was consistent. That makes the ending clear and satisfying, though not a happy one like Freakshow or Coven.
Kudos to our Lana Banana! – Source: Twitter
Some of you might ask why Asylum only ranked no.2, and yeah, I totally understand. I couldn’t choose between Asylum and The Murder House, but I still hold a bit of bias toward the original season, although this one is such a masterpiece.
No.1 – Murder House
Murder House surrounds the Harmon family. After the mother, Vivien had a miscarriage, and the father Ben had an affair, they moved from Boston to Los Angeles, hoping to forget all the misfortune. They bought a restored mansion without knowing that it was haunted by the ghost of former residents and their victims.
American Horror Story Season 1 Trailer
When I watched the first season of AHS, I didn’t have high expectations. As mentioned, it is hard to find a gem in the horror genre. What’s more, I didn’t know what to expect from a horror series created by the director of Glee. The Murder House then turned out to be a total cultural reset, pleasantly surprising for me. Perhaps that’s why it’s hard for other seasons to surpass The Murder House in my heart: The wild ride with it was far too exciting.
Jessica Lange and Evan Peters were perfect as mother and son. Also, Connie Britton’s expression throughout the series was priceless. It’s a shame she never took part in any other season.
I like how madness gradually engulfed the Harmon family. The shocking revelation about Violet near the end of the series was awe-inspiring: I should have seen it coming, but I certainly did not. In addition, the school shooting flashback was one of the most unsettling and horrifying I had ever seen in a horror movie. There was no blood on the ground, no dead body, no gore – the scene was nauseating in its realism.
It’s hard to say that The Murder House had a happy ending. Still, for audiences, the finale was a pleasant surprise. Considering how the story progressed, having all of them succumb to the house’s malevolence and return as ghosts was a reasonable wrap-up for the season. At least the Harmon family would still be together.
“Should I Watch American Horror Story In Order?”
While each season of the series tells a separate story, starting from season 4, it is crucial to have watched previous seasons. That way, you shall be able to catch all the Easter eggs and know exactly what’s going on.
Redditor nazia987 pointed out that the first three seasons, “Murder House”, “Asylum”, and “Coven” are unrelated, so you can watch them however you like. From season 4 onward, there are many links to previous seasons that require you to watch in chronological order.
There are also several American Horror Story games trivia available on the internet, like the Test Of Terror. If watching the series is not enough, you can give them a try and explore the world of AHS all by yourself.
That’s it, all 9 American Horror Story seasons ranked from worst to best! If you are an old fan, you might have different opinions about the pros and cons of each, so just speak up if you agree or disagree with our ranking!
And what if you are new to AHS? Since the spooky day is roughly around the corner, there is no better time to catch up on this yearly dish of blood-curdling terror. This makes even more sense when the 10th season was just released a few days ago on August 25th. Hopefully, our article will help you decide which season of AHS to enjoy this Halloween. Don’t miss out on Ryan Murphy’s mysterious yet exotic universe!
There is no better time to start watching AHS than now! – Source: MTV
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