Just a few weeks ago, fans of American Horror Story were looking to the future. Series co-creator Ryan Murphy announced the full cast for the upcoming tenth season in a post on social media revealing the return of series favorites Sarah Paulson and Evan Peters as well as the introduction of Home Alone star Macaulay Culkin. We even got a tease of what the tenth season may have as a theme that had fans guessing that perhaps an evil mermaid theme was in order. But the world has changed a lot in the weeks since. Thanks to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, production on television and film projects around the world have come to a halt, leaving the immediate future of entertainment very much up in the air.
While we don't yet know what, if any, impact the pandemic and related entertainment disruptions will have on American Horror Story's tenth season, we're using this time to take a look back and rank the existing nine seasons of the horror anthology season from "worst" to "best". Note the use of quotation marks there. No season of American Horror Story is truly "bad". Each one of the nine has something unique and interesting to offer viewers and each one is very much worth sitting down and binging if you're looking for a little horror to distract you from real-life events. That said, everyone has an opinion on where they think the seasons fall. Some fans think Freak Show is the best of the best, while others wish Apocalypse had never happened. Some feel like you can never top Murder House, while others have a different view.
Still, we took a look at each season of American Horror Story and tried to see how they stacked up against each other. While there are some seasons we feel pretty solid about their ranking -- Apocalypse in particular comes to mind -- the closer things got to the top, the harder it was to choose. Of course, that's where you come in. Read on for our ranking of every season of American Horror Story thus far and be sure to chime in in the comments with how you think the seasons should be ranked. We definitely want to hear your take.
Now, on with the rankings.
The most directly political of any season of American Horror Story to date, Cult did well with critics, but is a bit divisive for fans given its capitalization on the outcome of the 2016 Presidential Election. The season also largely saw Sarah Paulson and Evan Peters carry the entire season -- Peters played a lot of historical cult figures over the course of the season -- despite excellent performances by the rest of the cast. Cult isn't "bad". It’s just not quite what fans were expecting, earning it the number nine position on this list.
#8 Freak Show
Freak Show may be Jessica Lange's favorite and indeed the season is a favorite for many fans, but Freak Show also feels a bit like it leaned a little too much in one direction rather than another. There is a lot to love in the season to be sure, followingthe story of Elsa Mars'struggling freak show, but the season was definitely a bit more "weird" than other seasons and between that and a lot of musical performances, has left some fans divided.
Hotel is easily one of the most unusual installments of the series and has a lot to offer -- especially Lady Gaga's impressive performance in a wild, twisty story unlike anything the season has tackled before or since. What brings it down lower on this list, though, is the complicated storytelling the season had. There was just too much going on at times with multiple storylines and multiple plots that just weren't as well-balanced as other seasons.
Apocalypse earns its spot at number six on this list for one major reason: it's the eagerly-anticipated crossover between Murder House and Coven that fans had waited years for. That and Cody Fern's all-grown-up Antichrist Michael Langdon was pretty great (and had great hair). However, for all the truly inventive elements of the season and genuinely chilling moments at the end of the world, the season ultimately relied a bit too much on the familiar with beloved characters from other seasons. There's also the matter of the season somewhat rewriting show history entirely that has left fans with more questions than answers, something that makes it a little less as compared to the rest of the series.
Roanoke is, in many ways, a very unique season of American Horror Story. It's historical elements are a bit stronger here than in other seasons, there's the "show within a show" angle that let the actors play multiple roles within the course of one season in a truly fresh way. It's also just downright creepy and, at turns, deeply terrifying. But Roanoke is also one of the most dark and brutal of American Horror Story thus far, dishing out psychological horror in a way that's a bit unmatched in the anthology series. Twisty and dark, it's a bit more "difficult" than other seasons, though the payoff is well worth it.
#4 Murder House
The first season, Murder House, is our number four pick. On its own, Murder House is a stellar season of television. The show set the tone for everything that followed, expertly juggled some truly wild plotlines as well as established a mythology of sorts that has carried through every season since in one way or another. The only real "issue" with Murder House is that seasons after it keep raising the bar and, honestly, that's what good television does. Murder House set the pace, and the seasons that came after just kept going and, particularly in the case of Coven and Asylum, running faster.
The third season, Coven, is iconic and it takes the third spot on our list because, honestly, when it comes to the top three it's really hard to choose. Coven has almost everything you could ask for. You have witchcraft, history, Stevie Nicks, incredible performances by not just Jessica Lange and Sarah Paulson but from Angela Bassett and Kathy Bates -- both series newcomers at that point -- as well. It was a season that was stylish, slick, and funnier perhaps than any seasons to date. That humor did, at times, take things a little out of the horror realm at times, but it almost didn't matter. Coven definitely stands out compared to the rest of the series -- so much so that despite getting to revisit the season thanks to Apocalypse, fans wouldn't mind seeing those witches again in the future.
Coming in at number two is potentially a controversial choice: 1984. The season wasn't exactly received well by critics and some found a few of the season's elements a bit too out there even by American Horror Story standards -- real-life serial killer Richard Ramirez as a central character being one such "out there" element. However, despite this, the season was very much a complete departure from previous series, serving up not just scares and gore, but also offering a whole lot of demented fun by way of '80s nostalgia and slasher themes. The season may have been without series favorites Sarah Paulson, Jessica Lange, and Evan Peters, but the season also let Leslie Grossman truly shine while newcomer Angelica Ross was also a delight. A little kooky, a lot kitschy, and just downright weird, 1984 is easily the most fun the series has been and that alone puts it high on our list.
# 1 Asylum
While, as is the case with any ranking, there will be some debate over which season of American Horror Story is truly "the best" but it's the second season, Asylum, that often comes up tops for a variety of reasons. For starters, the season won the most awards, bringing home 28 of the 89 different awards it was nominated for -- including an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie for James Cromwell. The season also was well-received by fans and critics alike, but it's the performances that remain some of the series' best thus far. Sarah Paulson's performance as Lana Winters and Evan Peters' as Kit Walker were both especially gripping and emotional with the entire finished product being intense, thought-provoking, moving, and utterly terrifying in a way that the series hasn't quite managed to recreate in seasons since.