Insider ranks all 10 seasons of "American Horror Story" from worst to best.
Ryan Murphy's horror anthology series has been on the air for over a decade.
Each season features its own uniquely terrifying tale.
10. Season 7: "Cult" (2017)
Although "Cult" tried something new by setting itself up as a timely reaction to the 2016 election of Donald Trump, it didn't live up to expectations at all.
While Evan Peters delivers a truly terrifying performance as incel cult leader Kai Anderson, the story ultimately meanders through a series of convoluted twists that don't mesh well with the poor attempts at political satire.
There are moments where it excels, like making the most of Ally's (Sarah Paulson) clown phobia, but considering this was meant to be a cleverly satirical attack on Donald Trump, it doesn't live up to that promise.
9. Season 6: "Roanoke" (2016)
2016's "Roanoke" starts toying with the structure of the series by depicting a documentary series based on the experiences of a family who encountered malevolent forces connected to the missing Roanoke colony in North Carolina. The second half of the season puts the cast of the docuseries together with the "real" people involved as they return to the area for a sequel.
The bold structure definitely feels fresh in the first half, but once the story progresses into the second half it fails to maintain the level of excitement and interest that grips audiences in the first. Sure, it gets extra points for Lady Gaga's spooky performance as the witch Scáthach, but she can't save the show from its overstuffed narrative.
But it's okay, actor Sarah Paulson was also underwhelmed by "Roanoke."
8. Season 10: "Double Feature" (2021)
The show takes another stab at toying with the typical formula in Season 10: "Double Feature," which puts two smaller stories into one season, back-to-back.
The first, "Red Tide," touches on themes of temptation and hubris with its story about a miracle drug with bloodthirsty side effects. The story is a fascinating parable about how far some people will go for success, but it rushes to a dramatic climax that leaves audiences feeling shortchanged.
The second half, "Death Valley," follows the arrival of aliens in New Mexico, and their plans to take over the planet while also creating the perfect human-alien hybrid. While it has some brilliant moments of visceral horror, the story doesn't carry much weight. It's disappointing because 2012's "Asylum" also introduces aliens, but it did so in a much more interesting way.
7. Season 4: "Freak Show" (2014)
Straight off the bat, "American Horror Story: Freak Show" shouldn't have been that boring.
Let's face it, it isn't nearly as pacey as the previous seasons before it — which is hugely disappointing because it could have been something very special. While the sprawling cast of characters is utterly bewitching, the overarching story is frenetic and unfocused.
John Carroll Lynch cemented himself as one of the franchise's most iconic villains with Twisty the Clown, and his character design is downright petrifying.
But once irritating manchild, Dandy (Finn Wittrock) starts causing chaos it just whittles down the intensity.
At least Jessica Lange manages to keep things upright as Elsa Mars.
6. Season 9: "1984" (2019)
"American Horror Story" has always riffed on classic movies, themes, and ideas that audiences are familiar with. But "1984" takes a trip back to one of the golden eras of horror and focuses it all on the slasher genre.
Set at Camp Redwood, it uses a number of killers — both real and fictional — to terrify campers, including Emma Roberts' Brooke Thompson.
Fans of slasher movies will spot all the references to the likes of "Friday the 13th," and "Halloween" across the series, but Murphy adds a supernatural streak in there for good measure which keeps things fresh.
There's also a surprisingly captivating performance from Zach Villa as the real-life killer, Richard Ramirez, who flourishes alongside Dylan McDermott's twisted Bruce, and John Carroll Lynch's Mr. Jingles.
There's not much lurking below the surface, but that's okay, because "American Horror Story" gets away with just having fun with its own simple slasher flick.
5. Season 8: "Apocalypse" (2018)
"Apocalypse" is a little frustrating. On one hand, it's fascinating to see what the end of the world looks like in the midst of witches, secret societies, and the literal antichrist. But on the other hand, the story gets so messy it has to revert to time travel to undo it all.
Thankfully, the witches from "Coven" are involved to keep the audience's spirits high, and their return definitely feels rewarding for dedicated fans.
It's also hard to deny that it's thrilling watching them going up against the antichrist, Michael Langdon (Cody Fern). And the mythos behind the secret bunkers is a great bit of lore in the "American Horror Story" universe.
While it has its flaws, pulling off a crossover this big is pretty impressive.
4. Season 5: "Hotel" (2015)
Yes, "Hotel" is ranked this high, and there's one very good reason why: Lady Gaga.
Come on, any show that manages to weave in Mother Monster as the tantalizing matriarch of a vampire clan in a disturbing hotel should be enough to earn widespread praise!
Aside from her ethereal performance, the Cortez Hotel is packed with horrifying delights from the chilling Mattress Man to the disturbing Addiction Demon.
If that wasn't enough, it weaves in a story about Wes Bentley's weary detective who's hunting a sadistic murderer called the Ten Commandments Killer. So there's plenty to dig into.
No season of "AHS" is really complete without an appearance from Evan Peters, and luckily we get a devilish performance from the star as the hotel's deranged creator.
3. Season 3: "Coven" (2013)
One of the high points of the series came very early on in season three, "Coven," which follows the witches at Madam Robichaux's Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies in New Orleans. But the show crafts its own mythology about witches and their abilities, as each girl has their own special power that makes them stand out from the rest.
The season follows a bubbling war between the witches and a voodoo priestess, Marie LaVeau, exquisitely played by Angela Bassett, while also diving into the truly disturbing history of Delphine LaLaurie, and even throws in a zombie horde for good measure.
It's one of the best seasons because it's firing on all cylinders. A captivating plot, genuine scares, grim practical effects, and a perfect finale. It's a must-watch.
2. Season 2: "Asylum" (2012)
One of the most difficult things to do after delivering a stunning season of TV is doing it again.
Thankfully, "American Horror Story: Asylum" more than sticks the landing with its nightmarish period tale about Briarcliff Manor and its tumultuous past. It perfectly captures creepy magic with its melting pot of horror.
Demon nuns? Check. Nazi doctor running experiments on patients? Check. Monsters in the woods? Check. A serial killer called Bloody Face? Check. ALIENS? Check.
Usually, all these things shouldn't work so well alongside each other. But the gripping story of a handful of patients makes it all work seamlessly.
One scene, in particular, will always stand out though — Shelley (Chloë Sevigny) being turned into a Rasper by Dr. Arden (James Cromwell). It's just terrifying.
Season 1: "Murder House" (2011)
It's the one that kickstarted the whole series, and for good reason.
Ryan Murphy takes the typical haunted house set up and injects it with his now signature devilishly devious storylines in "Murder House."
The series really made a name for itself by pushing the boundaries of what horror can do on the small screen.
Whether it's the doomed relationship between Violet Harmon (Taissa Farmiga) and Tate Langdon (Evan Peters), the intensity of the Rubber Man, or the monstrous Infantata in the basement, it's crammed full of violent delights while always doing what's best for the story.
Let's hope future seasons manage to recapture that magic.
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