Every American Horror Story Season RANKED

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Every American Horror Story Season RANKED

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Nick Spake
With 1984 on the horizon, it's time to go through all the American Horror Story seasons… ranked from best to worst.
Transcript
Just when you thought anthology shows were dead, Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk reinvented the concept for a golden age of television. Welcome to WatchMojo and today we’ll be ranking every season of American Horror Story thus far.

For this list, we’re taking a look at the first eight seasons of “American Horror Story” and ranking them from worst to best. We’re basing our picks on which seasons took the most chances, which had the most memorable ensembles, and of course, which offered the most jump out of your seat moments. We’ll try to keep spoilers to a minimum for those who haven’t seen the show, but we will have to delve into a few key plot points.

#8: “Roanoke” – Season 6


Every single teaser leading up to Season 6’s premiere left the plot – not to mention the theme – clouded in mystery. With such ambiguous advertising, we anticipated something completely different when “Roanoke” finally hit the airwaves. As it turned out, the season revolved around a fake documentary series entitled “My Roanoke Nightmare,” complete with interviews and re-enactments, and inspired by the fabled lost colony of Roanoke. Although the season’s found footage approach was new to the “AHS” universe, we’ve seen much of this style before in “The Blair Witch Project” and “Paranormal Activity.” Even a meta twist halfway through the season is reminiscent of horror satires like “Scream.” While it didn’t exactly live up to the hype and ended on a disappointing note, “Roanoke” deserves points for trying to shake up the formula and Adina Porter’s riveting performance.

#7: “Hotel” – Season 5


“Hotel” marked the first season not to feature Jessica Lange. It was also the first not to be nominated for Outstanding Limited Series at the Primetime Emmys. “AHS” was starting to get a bit too familiar, leaving viewers desensitized to its shock value and gore. Lady Gaga was the primary selling point of this season, but she divided audiences. While Gaga did win a Golden Globe for her campy performance as the Countess, some critics felt the singer was still coming into her own as an actress. The season’s real star was the Hotel Cortez, which encompassed a chilling atmosphere and unnerving presence. The setting provided an eerie backdrop for several fun and horrific set pieces, most notably a deliciously devious dinner party.

#6: “Apocalypse” – Season 8


“Apocalypse” was built up as a crossover season between “Murder House” and “Coven.” In the long run, though, it was more of a sequel to “Coven,” with much of the focus centering on the witches of Miss Robichaux’s Academy. While the season does pick up where “Murder House” left off with the birth of the antichrist, characters like Constance Langdon and the Harmon family have very limited screen time. That said, the episode “Return to Murder House” is the season’s finest hour and easily a series highlight for fans. Although we would’ve liked more interactions like this, “Apocalypse” did deliver a refreshing change of pace and nicely tied up several lingering plot threads from past seasons. Above all else, it expanded upon the show’s mythology in ways that had only been touched upon before.

#5: “Cult” – Season 7


When Donald Trump pulled off an upset during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the nation was split down the middle with one half being overwhelmed with fear. “AHS” took that paranoia into overdrive with “Cult,” which ditched any supernatural elements in favor of psychological and real-world horror. “Cult” was not only timely because of Trump’s presidency, but also due to the rise of right-wing terrorism, and the Charlottesville tragedy that occurred a month prior to the season’s premiere episode. Granted, occasionally the season went a little overboard with its dark humor and only time will tell how its political commentary will age. However, the season’s biting satire and Evan Peters’ unhinged performance as cult leader Kai Anderson helped make “AHS” great...again.

#4: “Coven” – Season 3


“Coven” was a bit like “Harry Potter” meets “X-Men,” but with a much more demented edge. Just like Rogue from the X-Men, Zoe Benson learns that she possesses supernatural powers after getting too close to a boy. The witch is thus sent to a school for Exceptional Young Ladies where she meets headmistress Cordelia, mean girl Madison, and the Supreme witch clinging to her glory days. Season 3 isn’t without narrative issues, as it kills off multiple characters only to resurrect them later. Nevertheless, “Coven” makes impeccable use of its New Orleans setting, with the Salem Witch Trials laying the groundwork for multiple well-crafted storylines. It also proved to be one of the show’s best ensemble pieces with Jessica Lange and Kathy Bates both winning Primetime Emmys.

#3: “Freak Show” – Season 4


As its title suggests, this season owes a fair deal to the cult classic “Freaks.” “Freak Show” is every bit as disturbing as the 1932 film, but turns up the blood and gore as we’ve come to expect. The season hit at just the right time in the cultural zeitgeist, when evil clowns suddenly peaked in popularity, making Twisty the clown an instant star. The real scene-stealer, though, was Finn Wittrock’s Dandy, a spoiled rich boy ready to dive off the deep end into insanity. Even in a season that gave us a two-headed Sarah Paulson, Dandy stood out as the real freak. This was also the first season to experiment with the idea of a shared universe with multiple callbacks to previous plot points.

#2: “Murder House” – Season 1


One major advantage Season 1 had going for it is that nobody knew this would end up being an anthology series. While we weren’t sure what to expect, viewers generally figured that the Harmon family would be mainstays. So, imagine our surprise when several key characters met grim fates. Even with the knowledge that “Murder House” is a standalone season, it still functions as a genuinely creepy ghost story. The debut season struck an ideal balance of supernatural and real-world horror, with Tate Langdon sharing many parallels to infamous psychopaths. The glue that holds it all together is Jessica Lange, who swept the Primetime Emmys, the Screen Actors Guild Awards, and the Golden Globes with her wicked performance as Constance Langdon.

#1: “Asylum” – Season 2


Although the alien plotline still has us scratching our heads, “Asylum” otherwise fired on all cylinders. Never before has this series taken us to a more dreadful, claustrophobic, or sinister location than the Briarcliff Manor. Every cast member hit their stride with phenomenal performances from Jessica Lange, Sarah Paulson, Zachary Quinto, and James Cromwell, the latter of whom won a Primetime Emmy. In fact, “Asylum” dominated the Emmys that year with a total of 17 nominations, more than any other show. In the midst of all the shocking twists and gothic characters, this season even made room for a musical number that’s equally infectious and deranged. Like the best “Twilight Zone” episodes, “Asylum” told a human story about prejudice, where true madness stems from.
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