In 2011, Glee creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk brought their new horror anthology series, American Horror Story, to FX. In the 12 years since its debut, American Horror Story has become one of FX’s most successful shows, and it’s even spawned a spinoff series on Hulu called American Horror Stories.
Hulu is also the streaming home for the 12th and current season, American Horror Story: Delicate, as well as all of the previous seasons. If you’re new to the show or just looking to revisit your favorite storylines, we’ve put together this list of all of the American Horror Story seasons, ranked from worst to first. But if this is the first time you’re checking out the show, then you’re probably not prepared for just how far it can go.
American Horror Story‘s fifth season, Hotel, was the first time that the show was without Jessica Lange in a primary role. To fill Lange’s shoes, Lady Gaga was hired to play The Countess, a vampire who owned the Hotel Cortez. This was pre-A Star Is Born, and Lady Gaga’s lack of acting experience was painfully apparent. It was probably asking too much of her to hold down the season as one of the most important characters.
Much like the Murder House, guests who die at the Hotel Cortez don’t get to check out at noon…or ever again. This season goes on long enough with so many convoluted subplots that viewers may like they can’t escape either. There have been a couple of seasons of this show that were masterfully done. This wasn’t one of them.
The eleventh season, American Horror Story: NYC, strays a bit too far from the formula by being all too real. The story is set in the early ’80s, as a serial killer targets gay men at the same time that the HIV virus is beginning to rapidly spread in the gay community. Gino Barelli (Joe Mantello), a reporter for the New York Native, urges his policeman boyfriend, Patrick Read (Russell Tovey), which he initially refuses to do.
Unfortunately for both Gino and Patrick, they won’t be able to stay off the killer’s radar for long. And even if they do manage to prevail, an even more deadly killer awaits.
Because the 12th and current season, American Horror Story: Delicate, is still in progress, its final grade could still rise or fall. For now, it’s just slightly behind Cult. The storyline appears to be a riff on Rosemary’s Baby, as Hollywood starlet Anna Victoria Alcott (Emma Roberts) believes that a conspiracy is attempting to keep her from conceiving a child.
Anna’s only wrong about part of it. The Satanic conspiracy appears to be real, but they don’t seem to be interested in preventing Anna’s pregnancy. Instead, they seem to be encouraging it.
All art is political, but rarely more so than American Horror Story‘s seventh season, Cult, which was seemingly created in response to Donald Trump’s election to President. That event helps kick off the storyline of the season, as a man named Kai Anderson (Dahmer‘s Evan Peters) picks his moment to bring his followers together and create a dangerous cult of personality around himself.
There are some connections to the other AHS seasons, but Cult largely stands alone. It’s also not very fun to watch, and it comes off as very self-indulgent compared to the earlier seasons of the show.
American Horror Story has always been a weird show, but the fourth season, Freak Show, might have been the point where things got a little too weird. This was the season that John Carroll Lynch started his tradition of appearing as scary clowns, and as seen above, Twisty the Clown, really is terrifying.
But the bulk of the season is about the titular freaks at the freak show, including a two-headed Sarah Paulson as conjoined twins Bette and Dot Tattler. That’s a visual that you never quite get used to over the course of the season. There are, of course, actual freak show members of the cast in this season as well. But it’s the nightmarish quality of the story that makes Freak Show so memorable, especially the ending when one character picks a unique way to go out on top.
After stumbling in season 5, American Horror Story came roaring back with the sixth season, Roanoke. This time, the series shook up the format by adopting the reality show style of Ghost Hunters as a couple, Matt (André Holland) and Shelby Miller (Lily Rabe), recounted their spooky experience after moving to Roanoke, with reenactors played by Sarah Paulson and Cuba Gooding Jr., respectively, portraying the events related by the real Millers.
There’s a mid-season twist that’s far too good to spoil here. It’s enough to know that the season’s central mystery does tie back to the lost colony of Roanoke, and the second half of season 6 features some really wild moments.
Season 10, which is called American Horror Story: Double Feature, is basically two seasons in one, with cast members playing different roles in each story. The first five episodes are grouped together as Red Tide, which deals with a new take on vampires. The second part of the season, Death Valley, goes all in on the aliens who were first glimpsed in season 2.
Of the two, Death Valley is the most enjoyable because the alien story goes to some very unexpected places, and it doesn’t waste any time going there.
American Horror Story: Apocalypse was the long-awaited crossover season between Murder House and Coven, with a few nods to Hotel as well. More importantly, it wrapped up the dangling plotline from the end of the first season, with the emergence of Michael Langdon (Cody Fern) as the antichrist, the man who is destined to make the world burn.
The witches of Coven turn out to be humanity’s only hope of withstanding Michael since he has more than enough powers to deal with them. Without giving too many spoilers away, characters from previous seasons get a touch of redemption while a few even escape the grim reaper’s grasp. This was definitely one of the most fun seasons, but it really does depend on knowing the seven seasons that came before it.
Season 2 of American Horror Story was about as wild as it gets, with satanic possessions and enigmatic visits from aliens. But no one could ever accuse Asylum of being boring. On initial viewing, it was a little jarring to see season 1 cast members Jessica Lange, Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters, Lily Rabe, and Zachary Quinto in completely different roles. But once you get past that, it’s easy to go along for the ride.
Paulson in particular had a more prominent role as Lana Winters, a closeted Lesbian reporter who went undercover in Briarcliff Manor, a mental institution run by a sadistic nun, Sister Jude Martin (Lange), and a possible Nazi war criminal, Dr. Arthur Arden (Succession‘s James Cromwell). This is the season that taught fans to never let their guard down, because there was a new twist in nearly every episode.
Are you ready for some good old-fashioned slasher movie fun? American Horror Story‘s ninth season, 1984, took its inspiration from all of the ’80s slasher flicks, but especially from Friday the 13th. John Carroll Lynch also returns this season as another killer clown, Mr. Jingles, and it’s just something that he excels at playing.
In 1984, Brooke Thompson (Emma Roberts) narrowly survives a run-in with the Night Stalker serial killer (Richard Ramirez), only to find herself and her fellow counselors at Camp Redwood in even greater danger 14 years after an infamous massacre. Minor spoiler alert: The carnage isn’t just unfolding in 1984, as the series jumps around in time for a more complete picture of this deadly summer camp.
Every season of American Horror Story features a touch of the supernatural, but the third season was the first to feature witches. Coven turned out to be one of the most important seasons, since characters from this story showed up in later seasons on multiple occasions. Jessica Lange also had one of her best roles on the series as Fiona Goode (Jessica Lange), the reigning supreme witch who will go to any lengths to secure immortality.
Fiona’s daughter, Cordelia Goode (Sarah Paulson) leads a school for a new generation of witches including Zoe Benson (The Nun 2‘s Taissa Farmiga), Madison Montogmery (Emma Roberts), and Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe). And this is one education that not everyone is going to live through.
American Horror Story‘s first season had the one thing that none of its follow-ups did: Surprise. When the show premiered on FX, it wasn’t promoted as a one-off season of an anthology series. So when major characters started dying, it was legitimately shocking, and it made the show feel like it was a rare series where anything could happen.
Murder Home is about the Harmon family, Ben (Dylan McDermott) and Vivien (Connie Britton), along with their daughter, Violet (Taissa Farmiga), as they move into the only affordable house in Los Angeles. Of course, the house is cursed to be haunted by the ghosts of anyone who is killed there, but what are you gonna do? It’s a seller’s market!
The Harmons’ bonds of fidelity were already tested when Ben had an affair with Hayden McClaine (Kate Mara), but the fireworks really start when they meet Tate Langdon (Evan Peters), the disturbed son of the home’s former owner, Constance Langdon (Jessica Lange). Constance will do anything to get her home back, and Lange’s deliciously over-the-top performance sealed the deal for the show’s best season.
Watch every season of American Horror Story on Hulu.