I've been a movie enthusiast my whole life and been writing movie reviews for over 15 years.
American Horror Story: New York City, the 11th season of FX's horror anthology series, will premiere on October 19, 2022. I've ranked the previous ten seasons of AHS from best to worst, so you can binge accordingly.
Contains spoilers, if you hadn’t figured that out.
American Horror Story Ranked 1–10
- Season 3: AHS: Coven (2013–14)
- Season 5: AHS: Hotel (2015–16)
- Season 2: AHS: Asylum (2012–13)
- Season 1: AHS: Murder House (2011)
- Season 8: AHS: Apocalypse (2018)
- Season 10: AHS: Double Feature (2021)
- Season 9: AHS: 1984 (2019)
- Season 7: AHS: Cult (2017)
- Season 6: AHS: Roanoke (2016)
- Season 4: AHS: Freak Show (2014–15)
1. Season 3: AHS: Coven (2013–14)
Witches be trippin' at Hogwar-- um, Miss Robichaux's Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies.
Not good at being the Supreme
Really bad at choosing a husband
Madame Delphine LaLaurie
I'd let her do my hair
How long can an audiotape of Stevie Nicks last in the swamp?
The strongest season from episodes 1 through 13, with not a weak nor extraneous episode in the bunch. It builds on what you’ve come to expect from the first two seasons, but with a bloody dose of gallows humor and not-so-subtle commentary on aging and female dynamics.
From Jessica Lange’s bitchy Fiona to Emma Roberts’ super-bitchy Madison, Coven contains the AHS’ most memorable group of characters. Coven even finds a way to incorporate Stevie Nicks, which can’t be all bad.
- Best Character: Kathy Bates’ Madame LaLaurie manages to make an unrepentant racist/murderer somewhat sympathetic near the end of her arc, even while you still hate her.
- Best Episode: #12 “Go To Hell”- The penultimate episode closes out all of the non-Coven characters in spectacular fashion, some of who you miss more than the actual coven members.
2. Season 5: AHS: Hotel (2015–16)
Guests check in, but they don't check out. Because they get killed. I guess that means the cleaning deposit is put to good use.
Caught in a bad Hotel
Caught in a bad Hotel. Rah rah ah-ah-ah!
Ro mah ro-mah-mah
Want your bad Hotel
Tell me something girl, are you happy in this modern hotel
The pencil thin mustache shows how evil he is
She looks exactly like Liz Taylor
She loves drugs and crimped hair
He's a bad cop. As in bad at his job.
Contains some of the best scary sequences in all of AHS (the infected kid attack, March madness) and one of its most empathetic (Matt Bomer and Kathy Bates’ rather fraught mother-son relationship). 3 years before A Star Is Born, Lady Gaga proves she can act as The Countess, a person you’d think Gaga could play in her sleep but is given more diverse character moments that you’d think Gaga capable of. A star is born indeed.
The season falters during the Alphabet Killer scenes (you guess the killer about 10 minutes in), but it’s easily forgivable.
- Best Character: A toss-up between Evan Peters’ mustachioed psycho James March and the Hotel Cortez itself. You know the cliché, “The Location is a character”? This applies in spades in regard to Hotel. The Cortez remains a place you’d want to visit once, and hope you get out alive.
- Best Episode: #4 “Devils Night” All your favorite serial killers converge for dinner at the Cortez. Bloody. Brilliant.
3. Season 2: AHS: Asylum (2012–13)
Intrepid reporter Lana Winters goes undercover at the notorious Briarcliff Asylum. Everybody thinks this is a good idea and that nothing will go wrong.
|Actor||Role||Crazy Fun Fact|
Sister Jude Martin
What some clam chowdah with that?
Lana does not like the banana
Kit does not like the aliens
Sister Mary Eunice McKee
Are you into nun porn?
Monsignor Timothy Howard
The priest that wants power, not little boys
AHS’ sophomore season had the best first 6 episodes of television back when it aired in 2012. Because everyone is afraid of asylums (if you’re not, you might belong in one). It had Nazis, Jessica Lange with a Boston accent, even aliens. Asylum would have been ranked much higher had it stuck the landing.
The alien subplot was not handled well at all near the end, and neither was the denouement of the actual asylum. You almost forget Adam Levine and Jenna Dewan are in this and you’ll never hear The Name Game the same way.
- Best Character(s): Lana Winters is Sarah Paulson’s her best work throughout all 8 seasons. I genuinely felt bad for all the things Lana had to go though in Asylum, even if a good portion of them felt more than a little implausible. Shout out to James Cromwell’s (Babe) kinky Nazi doctor. That’ll do, Nazi. That’ll do.
- Best Episode: #5 “I Am Anne Frank Part 2”- The one where Bloody Face is revealed.
4. Season 1: AHS: Murder House (2011)
Because housing in California is so cheap, the Harmons head out west like the Beverly Hillbillies. This house is not clean.
Dr. Ben Harmon
He should choose his sexual partners better
She's really into latex, and should choose her sexual partners better
She should not be having children
Terrible taste in boys
This bitch is crazy
You never forget your first time. From the twins in the basement, to Rubber Man, to the least happy gay couple ever, to Constance and her increasingly deranged progeny, AHS’ inaugural season filled a hole (serial horror that pushed the boundaries of cable before streaming services eliminated them) and we haven’t looked back since.
I remember back in 2011 when the school shooting episode caused all kinds of controversy and then we had an actual school shooting every week and fictional horror became a respite.
- Best character: Ben Harmon. The worst husband ever. I remember someone pointed out that if Ben had only kept it in his pants, then every season of AHS wouldn’t have happened. Thanks?
- Best Episode: #11 “Birth”- The one where the twins are born. The season finale after this feels almost anticlimactic.
5. Season 8: AHS: Apocalypse (2018)
It's the end of the world is we know it.
Wilhemina Venable/ Cordelia Goode/ Billie Dean Howard
Don't stare at her cane
Mr. Gallant/ Tate Langdon/ James March/ Jeff Pfister
He is also 17 other characters this season
It's nice they have conditioner even in the apocalypse
Retail is hell
Domo oregato Ms. Roboto
The most fan service-y season, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun. If you think about it, the first two episodes are actually the scariest. Apocalypse turns into camp once the witches show up, but what high camp it is.
I can’t remember smiling so much during an AHS season. A plot device taken from the 1999 movie Galaxy Quest is easily forgiven, as well as the meandering final 3 episodes because, well, the Coven (see the #1 season).
- Best Character: Mallory, almost by default, since she’s the only new character that really makes any impact.
- Best Episode: #6 “Return to Murder House”- Sarah Paulson’s directorial debut! The return of Jessica Lange! Violet and Tate! The Harmons! Madison has a heart! One of the most complete AHS episodes ever and arguably one of its best.
6. Season 10: AHS: Double Feature (2021)
The first season to air during the pandemic, Double Feature was two half seasons for the price of one, both with middling results but more or less worth watching. The first section, Red Tide was ultimately more fulfilling than the second Death Valley. Death Valley was more of a black comedy than actual horror. Average at best, a small step up from 1984. But a far cry from AHS’ best.
Tuberculosis Karen/ Mamie Eisenhower
Actually Got Tuberculosis and Became First Lady
Only AHS Cast Member with an Actual Kill Count
Nobody Remembered He Was Gone For A Season
The Stunt Hands Used For Typing Were From a 14-Year Old Malaysian Girl.
Punched anybody on set who mentioned Home Alone 3
- Best Character- Frances Conroy’s Belle Noir, a mediocre romance writer turned best seller thanks to some outside help and an acquired taste for blood. You wish you were having as much fun as Conroy seemed to be having. The only character in Double Feature that actually scares you.
- Best Episode #2 “Pale”- The episode in which you learn about The Muse and its effect on both the talented and the mediocre. One of the few episodes than genuinely surprise you and doesn’t telegraph its intentions within 10 minutes.
7. Season 9: AHS: 1984 (2019)
Set during the 80s. Sigh...
|Actor||Role||Totally Awesome Fact|
World's least likely serial killer.
World's least likely nurse.
Bottle rocket blonde.
Neither gross nor a man.
You hate it when your early gay porn work is found on tape.
Not sure if it was on purpose that the season set in the 1980s (because everything needs to be set in the 80s now) suffers from the very thing the 80s as an era are accused of: too much of everything. Too many killers in one area. Too many cheap references to 80s slashers. 1984 started out fun but became less fun as the season wore on. It stayed consistent in tone, even when the story meandered. Also, that theme was pretty catchy.
- Best Character- John Carroll Lynch’s Mr. Jingles is the only one you truly remember and the only one that the writers took the time to develop. He’s the serial killer with a heart of gold and a soft spot for his son (aww). Everyone else in the cast is a one-note psychopath or a vengeful ghost.
- Best Episode- #7 “The Lady in White”- The one where you learn about Mr. Jingles’ extreme mommy issues.
8. Season 7: AHS: Cult (2017)
If the group you belong to kills people to make a "statement", you may be in a cult. At least you get creepy cool masks.
Good restaurateur, unobservant wife. Looks good in robes.
The hair dye is compelling
Dr. Rudy Vincent
Possibly a conflict of interest
The season without any supernatural elements, which really upset a lot of lightweights. Cult had its moments of greatness (the Anderson parents bedroom, the cult assaults), but what ultimately dooms it is the cult itself.
None of the characters’ motivations feel real (Ivy’s in particular) and only serve as episode-stuffers. The episodes recounting history’s other famous cults feel like so much padding.
- Best character: Adina Porter’s Beverly Hope aka the world’s most biased newspaper reporter. She’s the most unhinged in a cast of mostly unstable characters.
- Best episode: #1 “Election Night”- The one that triggered everybody.
9. Season 6: AHS: Roanoke (2016)
The centuries-long mystery of Roanoke is finally solved!!! Click here to find out more!!!
Thomasin "The Butcher" White
You know it can't be good if her nickname is "The Butcher"
Cuba Gooding Jr.
It's difficult not to make a show me the money reference
Show me the Millers
See above the see above
I don’t so much dislike this season as I don’t remember much of it so it clearly didn’t make an impression on me. I’ve had opportunities to watch it again, but have consciously chosen to watch other seasons, if that tells you anything.
The reality TV concept for Roanoke was an enjoyable way to change things up from the usual format. Unfortunately, like reality TV it was just as forgettable. Nice redneck torture sequence, though.
- Best Character: Cheyenne Jackson’s Sidney James, a D-bag producer who gets what’s coming to him.
- Best Episode: #10 “Chapter 10”- Not so much because it nails the finale, but because it brings back Lana Winters.
10. Season 4: AHS: Freak Show (2014–15)
A Florida freak show in 1951 is the setting for multiple murders. A clown goes on a rampage. This happens in Florida ever year.
|Actor||Role||Freaky Fun Fact|
Bettie and Dot Tattler
Wondering how many fetish porn sites are dedicate to these two
Wondering how many fetish porn sites are dedicated to legless women who run freak shows - 7
He's not so dandy
Give him a hand
John Carroll Lynch
Twisty the Clown
We all float down here
The only season of AHS that is truly bad. With a premise so ripe for terror, the season should have been a slam dunk. But on an episode-by-episode basis, Freakshow was maddeningly inconsistent. I only finished it because I wanted to see if it would get better. It didn’t. At least Freak Show sent off Jessica Lange memorably. Missed opportunities all around.
- Best Character: Twisty the Clown. It’s the only character worth remembering.
- Best Episode: Whichever episode showed that all seasons of AHS are linked.
Feel free to leave your favorite seasons, episodes, characters etc. Be sure to vote.
Buy AHS Seasons 1-4 Here!
© 2019 Noel Penaflor
Me on August 01, 2020:
Asylum is the best
Noel Penaflor (author) from California on May 13, 2019:
You're welcome. Thanks for reading and looking forward to your list.
Jennifer Jorgenson on May 13, 2019:
Great article! Now I'm going to have to think about what my order is. Thanks for sharing!