Now in its seventh season, American Horror Story has given us plenty of wild, weird and downright horrifying moments over the years. It hasn’t gone without a few dud episodes, either. The verdicts are in: which seasons were the most gripping, and which fizzled out before Sarah Paulson had so much as had the chance to cry on camera? Let’s rank all seven seasons from worst to best.
7. Freak Show (Season 4)
Let’s not sugarcoat it: Freak Show is the absolute worst series of American Horror Story. Sure, it had plenty of blood and gore, Jessica Lange performed a spectacular cover of David Bowie‘s ‘Life On Mars’, and it had a killer first episode (literally). But that wasn’t enough. Every episode threw up another villain to the point where it became convoluted. And the storyline became confusing, frustrating and just plain boring.
6. Murder House (Season 1)
Murder House’s running time isn’t as long as the series that followed, yet it felt like it outstayed its welcome. The Harmons might have believed their new LA home was a “second chance”, but they soon found out that wasn’t the case. While it wasn’t a bad season per se, it’s since been eclipsed by much better efforts from Ryan Murphy.
5. Roanoke (Season 6)
Another series that felt like it dragged on, Roanoke was also highly inventive. It twisted AHS’ usual concept and presented a fake TV show within a fake TV show within a real TV show. If that sounds confusing, a quick reminder: The first half of the series was shown as My Roanoke Nightmare, recounting the characters’ plight via talking head interviews and dramatic re-enactments. It then moved on to Return To Roanaoke: Three Days In Hell. The latter saw the actors from those re-enactments joining up with the “real life” people they portrayed. The whole thing could have progressed faster, but its Blair Witch style elements earned it brownie points.
4. Cult (Season 7)
The only season so far to be rooted in reality rather than the supernatural, Cult aims to scare by being on-the-nose about contemporary politics, while upping the ante on the violence. Some of the twists have been admittedly predictable, but others have been extremely intriguing. Watching Ally unravel, snap and then return as a terrifying pillar of strength has been a testament to Murphy’s writing skills.
3. Hotel (Season 5)
The series that brought us Lady Gaga‘s AHS debut was riddled with ghosts, junkies and mystery, and took its inspiration from real life, skeezy LA hotel The Cecil. Much like that eerie establishment, the fictional Cortez is an art deco murder palace, run by James Patrick March – inspired by “America’s first serial killer” H.H. Holmes. Hotel was the most stylish series of AHS yet, with Gaga’s The Countess elegantly decked out, but it was also one of the most intricate.
2. Asylum (Season 2)
Asylum followed journalist Lana Winters’ plight, committed to the same asylum she was investigating for a story. Jessica Lange put in a memorable performance as Sister Jude, while the two sides of psychiatrist Dr. Oliver Thredson (who was also the serial killer Bloody Face) made for tense viewing. Winters proved one very terrifying fact: trying to convince the world you’re not crazy only makes you look even more off your rocker.
1. Coven (Season 3)
Season three of AHS was all about revenge – be it Kyle (Evan Peters) taking revenge on his mother, the coven getting revenge for Madison or the two different witch groups of New Orleans seeking to win over the other. The latter gave rise to one of the best things about Coven – two stunning performances from Jessica Lange as coven leader Fiona Goode, and Angela Bassett as Marie Laveau, the Voodoo priestess.
All that, and the series still found time to comment on slavery and sex, and fit in a cameo from the white witch herself, Stevie Nicks. Praise be.