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American Horror Story Seasons Ranked

American Horror Story seasons ranked

In 2011, the creator of Nip/Tuck and Glee took the world further by storm. Then Ryan Murphy created a little thing called American Horror Story.  This FX series starred Dylan McDermott, Connie Britton, and had a career-resurrecting turn by Jessica Lange.  The premise was simple enough.  A family moves into a new house.  Soon they realize that it is haunted by the various spirits that have accumulated there over the years.  Through a series of flashbacks and current plot developments, AHS scared the hell out of the entire country. Furthermore, it did that while racking up countless awards and acclaim.

The Walking Dead notwithstanding, horror series are not something you could easily come by, especially one so outstanding.  After that initial successful season, Murphy had the brilliant insight to recycle the same cast. He just assigned them to the new characters in the anthology’s next season.  So the yearly American Horror Story event was birthed.  With Lange, Sarah Paulson, Kathy Bates, Angela Basset, and even Lady Gaga getting in the action, you can scarcely watch more meticulously crafted entertainment on modern TV.

The current season is subtitled Apocalypse, and if it were to end right now, it would be among the strongest seasons AHS has ever had.  It perfectly blends aspects Coven and Murder House into its new narrative.  The result is absolutely terrifying and infinitely cool.  As long as the show and it’s amazing cast just chug along doing great, daring, and unique work, AHS isn’t going anywhere.  Here is a look back on all the seasons of American Horror Story, ranked best to worst.

#8: American Horror Story: Cult (Season 7)

American Horror Story kind of lost its way a bit with Cult.   Ryan Murphy and many of his cast and crew are outwardly liberal.  So when Donald Trump won the presidency, they considered that a horrific situation and therefore a good premise for an entire AHS season.  Sure, there are still some scary kills and the brother/sister relationship between Evan Peters and Billie Lourd is fantastic. However,  the entire season felt preachy instead of creative.  To have an entire plot surrounding white male privilege and making one of them the villain loses its steam pretty early.

It doesn’t really matter what side of the political spectrum you are on.  If Ryan Murphy made a season about Hillary winning and a militant feminist starts a cult, it still would not have worked.  American Horror Story is horror taken to such stylistic heights that it becomes horror-fantasy.  Fans flock to AHS for the escape and the bloodlust satiation.  They do not want political opinions or themes. However, the quality of craftsmanship is still top notch.  Just the premise was lacking.

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#7:  American Horror Story: Coven (Season 3)

The third season of American Horror Story was all about girl power.  After a season of ghosts and a season of killers, it made sense to move on to magical horror.  Coven follows Sarah Paulson’s Cordelia Foxx. She is the headmistress of a girls’ school for witches in New Orleans.  However, her mother, Fiona (Jessica Lange) is the supreme, the most powerful of all witches. The season is about the struggle between the two.  In the periphery, there are many younger witches trying to learn their craft and iron out their troubles.

Everything that happens in the school is fine.  Paulson and Lange are like two lions fighting as they act against each other.  The rest of the girls, Taissa Farmiga, Gabourey Sidibe, Emma Roberts, and Lily Rabe all have their moments.  However, the best parts of the season involve Angela Basset’s famous voodoo priestess, Marie Laveau, and Kathy Bates’s serial killer Delphine LaLaurie.  The voodoo/witch rivalry and the hacking and slashing of Delphine inject all the needed gore and scare that the season needed.  Coven is a season of peaks and valleys.  The valleys aren’t too deep and the peaks are enormous.

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#6:  American Horror Story: Roanoke (Season 6)

Say what you will about American Horror Story: Roanoke, but the creators really took a huge chance and did something completely different.  Roanoke is split into two very distinct halves. It is a courageous way to create an experimental, meta piece of art.  In the first half, we are treated to a documentary called My Roanoke Nightmare.  The documentary chronicles the experience of an interracial couple when they bought a renovated farmhouse in Roanoke, Virginia.  It is a frightening tale involving a Celtic witch goddess and the lost Roanoke tribe of the 1580s.  Also, it gets increasingly and graphically more violent as it goes on.

Then the season took an amazing pivot. The second half begins in a world in which the documentary was aired and is an enormous success.  Now those filmmakers are inviting the original family as well as their on-screen counterparts back to the Roanoke house. The entire scenario is a kind of ratings-grab version of Big Brother.  You just know that the cynics and nonbelievers are going to find out the family’s experiences were real.  It may not be as scary or well designed as the other seasons, but it was definitely the bravest.

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#5:  American Horror Story: Murder House (Season 1)

This is where it all began.  American Horror Story: Murder House starts off a bit slow and full of soap opera-style cliches.  The couple moves into a new house to start their lives anew. The depressed teenage daughter is not dealing with her parents’ estrangement well.  The new neighbors are middling and manipulative. Also, Dylan McDermott’s old student stalks him to California because she is pregnant with his love child.

However, eventually, the season kicks into high gear.  It is apparent that everyone who has ever died in the house is trapped there and haunts it.  The season progresses and we see gruesome, disturbing deaths and murders that have occurred within the house.  The highlight being the artistic choice of having the famous Black Dahlia murder occur within the walls.  Add to that the iconic head-to-toe leathered rapist and you have the genesis of the scariest show on TV.

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#4:  American Horror Story: Hotel (Season 5)

American Horror Story: Hotel is the perfect example of style over substance. It’s style is absolutely incredible.  The season is is a bit too chock full of ideas. It has ghosts, kidnappings, vampires, torture chambers, serial killer investigations, adulterous love triangles, and femme fatales.  Still, Hotel is a glorious feast for the eyes. The retro design of the Hotel Cortez is astonishing.  The sheer opulence of the building injects a sense of distrust and fear that lasts through the entire season.  

But it is not just the Hotel that is amazing.  Lady Gaga is stunning as the countess. Every second she is on screen is electric, sexy, and eerie.  Who knew she had that kind of performance in her? Also, Denis O’Hare’s role as the transgender bartender may well be the greatest performance in the history of the show.

One last thing.  James March (Evan Peters), the creator of the hotel, hosts Devil’s Night.  It is when he invites America’s worst serial killers in history for a party.  It is an absolute hoot and Lily Rabe shines as Aileen Wuornos.

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#3:  American Horror Story: Freak Show (Season 4)

In 1932, Tod Browning directed a film called Freaks.  It was essentially a horror film about a band of circus folk who turn into a dangerous mob when they are taken advantage of.  Well, season 4 of American Horror Story is pretty much the same premise.  As usual, Freak Show is written well.  It has perfect allegories for racism and misogyny peppered throughout.  And for sure, there are some creepy natural oddities. However, Freak Show’s brilliance isn’t among the lavish circus or the continually compelling performances.  

What Freak Show has are the best villains of the series.  First, John Cameron Mitchell’s Twisty the Clown is insanely terrifying.  If Pennywise the clown from Stephen King’s It disturbs you, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.  Beyond that, there is another villain in the form of Finn Wittrock’s Dandy.  Dandy is a rich, spoiled sociopath. He is accustomed to getting everything he wants.  Currently, Dandy is obsessed with the conjoined twins, Bette and Dot (Sarah Paulson).  When a man as disturbed as Dandy doesn’t get his way, he unleashes mayhem. It is the perfect clean-cut evil balance to Twisty’s grotesqueness.

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#2:  American Horror Story: Apocalypse (Season 8)

Of course, the season is only half over and it may not stick the landing, but Apocalypse has been absolutely outstanding.  If it all wraps up well, it may even become the best American Horror Story yet.  Nuclear Holocaust has occurred and a selected few have been granted safety in a facility called Outpost 3.  The bunker is run with an iron fist by Wilhelmina (Sarah Paulson) and Miriam. This ragtag bunch that ridiculously includes Joan Collins live out 18 months underground.  The apocalyptic attitude and the gloomy, dreadful atmosphere of a civilization destroyed is only half of the story.

And this is where the Apocalypse’s brilliance comes in.  Before long, an enigmatic man named Michael Langdon arrives.  Soon thereafter, the witches from Coven enter.  Furthermore, Murder House even plays a part.  Apparently, American Horror Story has created a mythos akin to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and it adds an entirely new level of awesomeness to the show.  There were hints of such interconnection before. Remember when Twisty showed his gruesome face in Cult?  Well, this season is that times 10.  Apocalypse is simply proof positive that American Horror Story is still one of the most clever and most creative shows on television.

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#1:  American Horror Story: Asylum (Season 2)

After the success of the moody and spooky first season, American Horror Story pulled out all the stops for Asylum.  The show had moved far beyond spookiness and right into viscerally nightmarish terror.  Old asylums are the perfect setting for horror, and the sophomore season milks it for all it’s worth.  There are serial killers, alien abductions, mad scientist experiments, and a whole lot else. Being a 1964 mental institution, Briarcliffe Manor feels dirty on every surface and filled with horrific patients that would terrify Tim Burton.  

Besides the helpless, trapped, and unpredictable sense of horror that Asylum so perfectly renders, the cast has become extraordinary.  Jessica Lange is back as the head of Briarcliffe, Sister Jude.  Also, Evan Peters returns as a man who is accused of being a serial killer.  However, besides them, the show adds such fantastic actors as Sarah Paulson, Zachary Quinto, and Joseph Fiennes.  Out of all 8 seasons, Asylum is the one that achieved horror perfection.

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