Since its debut in October 2011, “American Horror Story” on FX has amused viewers with a macabre sense of humor. The boundary-pushing horror anthology series, created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, has aired for 10 years and the same number of seasons.
It has creatively brought to life a wide range of spooky, weird, campy, gory, and shocking stories, with a frequently recurring cast of talented actors playing a variety of roles.
Each season has introduced a brand-new theme, plot, and cast of characters, some of whom are darker and scarier than others. These have ranged from asylums to serial killers, witches to vampire countesses, haunted manors full of ghosts to a freak show circus, and everything else “horror” in between.
Given the recent 10-year anniversary of the popular series, we thought it was a good idea to rate the seasons, not necessarily in terms of quality but rather, in terms of scariness, as we look back at them in all their crazy, insane, and horrifying beauty.
The “American Horror Story” Season that Frightened You the Most, Was It?
- American Horror Story: Freak Show (season 4) – 1952
- American Horror Story: Asylum (season 2) – 1964
- American Horror Story: 1984 (season 9) – 1984
- American Horror Story: Murder House (season 1) – 2011
- American Horror Story: Coven (season 3) – 2013
- American Horror Story: Roanoke (season 6) – 2014 to 2016
- American Horror Story: Hotel (season 5) – 2015
- American Horror Story: Cult (season 7) – 2017
- American Horror Story: Apocalypse (season 8) – 2020 to 2021
- American Horror Story: Double Feature: Red Tide (season 10) – 2021
- American Horror Story: Double Feature: Death Valley (season 10) – 2021
10. 1984 (Season 9)
The ninth season of the program, “AHS: 1984,” paid homage to popular American slasher movies from the 1980s, like “Friday the 13th,” while also taking the series’ campiness rather literally.
Brooke Thompson, played by Emma Roberts, chooses to join her friends in becoming a camp counselor with the help of Camp Boss Margaret Booth after being attacked by the serial killer known as the Night Stalker (Zach Villa) (Leslie Grossman).
They’re unaware that the camp was the scene of a horrifying string of killings a decade and a half earlier, and although we’re made to believe Mr. Jingles (John Carroll Lynch) is the murderer, it’s entirely possible that it’s someone else.
With all the ghosts and murders and such, it can’t be claimed that “1984” lacks any scary moments, but it does have a tendency to play up the campy humor and is undoubtedly having a lot of fun with the fashion, hairdo, and music of the time.
In the end, it comes out as a little bit more of a send-up than a scare fest. it’s still a helluva good time to watch, though.
9. Apocalypse (Season 8)
Fans of the series finally got what they had been waiting for with the eighth season of American Horror Story, “Apocalypse”: a crossover season that reunited fan favorites from past seasons and paired them all up with the Antichrist (Cody Fern) during the end of the world. Even though the mash-up provided a lot of fan service, the resulting set of episodes did not have a very spooky vibe.
The season is mainly set in an underground bunker called “Outpost 3,” and it revolves around Michael Langdon (Fern), the aforementioned Antichrist. In order to determine whether they are worthy of salvation, a group of survivors is transported to Outpost 3. Later, the witches of “Coven” and several Warlocks all congregate there.
There are several positive aspects to “Apocalypse,” including Jessica Lange’s return and final appearance on “AHS.” While Stevie Nicks’ visit (in which she sings Misty a strong and heartbreaking song of “Gypsy”) provided another memorable moment, it also gave salvation for “Coven’s” independent Misty (Lily Rabe), who had been imprisoned in a particularly brutal personal hell in the show’s third season. The real scare factor was, however, rather modest for a season that was focused on the Antichrist and the end of the world.
8. Cult (Season 7)
The events of the 2016 American election had a big impact on “AHS: Cult,” which made its debut in September 2017. voting for the president. In light of Donald Trump’s victory, the relevant plot focuses on a cult that terrorizes the locals of a suburb of Michigan.
Ryan Murphy and his team were up about the real-life concerns and terrors they hoped to explore with clever episode names like “Election Night,” “Neighbors from Hell,” and “Great Again.” While the season’s topical political themes were undeniably unsettlingly relevant and personal, the season as a whole lacked a certain element of fright, making it less spooky than some of the others.
Sure, there’s the fact that the violent cult’s members all wear clown costumes, which coulrophobia viewers might find unsettling. Yes, cults are intrinsically frightening. But rather than a show aiming to send chills down your spine, the season had the air of a darkly humorous critique.
However, Evan Peters had a standout season, giving the show one of its greatest and most intense performances yet as the cult leader Kai Winters (along with other cultish figures like Andy Warhol, David Koresh, Jim Jones, Charles Manson, and even Jesus). With his efforts, Peters would receive his first Saturn Award nomination, albeit, in our opinion, he ought to have received one much earlier.
7. Double Feature (Season 10)
After the more lighthearted, more widely enjoyable “1984,” the 10th season of “American Horror Story,” “Double Feature,” felt more like a return to form, with a spookier, slow-burn season divided into two different storylines: the seaside-set, vampire-centric “Red Tide” and the alien-centric “Death Valley.”
Finn Wittrock plays a writer who relocates to the quiet refuge of Provincetown, Massachusetts, with his pregnant wife and children in the ostensibly “Salem’s Lot”-inspired “Red Tide,” hoping to find inspiration and complete some work for his career.
Instead, he presents you with a mystery black pill that, depending on your ability level, can either enhance your skills or transform you into a pale, vampire-like creature. He first benefits from the medications, but soon after, all hell breaks loose.
“Death Valley,” the second segment of “Double Feature,” is more of a throwback to the sci-fi B-movies of the 1950s, and its plot envisions President Dwight D. Eisenhower (Neal McDonough) signing an agreement with aliens that permits them to kidnap humans while they foment distractions like the Vietnam War.
The season had its share of terrifying moments overall, but there wasn’t much area for material investigation due to the two-storyline structure (“Death Valley” itself is split into two separate timelines and storylines, further adding to the disjointed nature). The entire season might have been a little scarier if it hadn’t been divided up in this way.
6. Coven (Season 3)
Because of its feminism-themed plotlines an all-female cast, “Coven” has won the hearts of many admirers. It centers on a coven of Salem-related witches who reside in contemporary New Orleans at Miss Robichaux’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies. Despite being a popular favorite, most people agree that it’s not the scariest season. But it does not mean it is completely free of its own tiny terrors.
The series’ first appearance of Kathy Bates, who portrayed a fictionalized version of the real-life Madame Delphine LaLaurie, a wealthy former slaveowner who tortured and murdered her slaves, made for an unsettling watch, to say the least. Jessica Lange gave one of her best performances ever as Fiona Goode, the Supreme witch, and it also featured one of the greatest Jessica Lange performances of all time as Fiona Goode.
Other frightening aspects include the serial killer known as the Axeman (who Fiona eventually dates), Cordelia (Sarah Paulson) ripping out her own eyes with garden shears, and the sensitive, kind Misty (Lily Rabe) becoming locked in her own particular hell.
Also making their series debuts in “Coven” was Emma Roberts as Madison Montgomery, Gabourey Sidibe as Queenie, and Angela Bassett as Marie Laveau. Angela Bassett, Kathy Bates, and other cast members received Emmy nominations; Kathy Bates ultimately took home the trophy, while Jessica Lange was honored with a Golden Globe for her legendary performance.
5. Roanoke (Season 6)
The “Roanoke” season of “American Horror Story” is an intriguing one. Its central mystery is “The Lost Colony” of Roanoke, which was founded in the 16th century and is one of America’s oldest unsolved mysteries. Roanoke is located on North Carolina’s Outer Banks.
The presentation of the sixth season of the show is what sets it apart from previous seasons. The story is told as part of a documentary-style show within the show called “My Roanoke Nightmare,” in which Shelby and Matt Miller (Lily Rabe and Andre Holland) are interviewed about their experiences at a deserted colonial farmhouse, where they underwent a series of terrifying events that are then dramatized.
“Roanoke” offers no shortage of frights, not the least of which comes from Thomasin White, or The Butcher (Kathy Bates), the first lady of the lost colony who sold her soul and is now prone to acts of human sacrifice. It doesn’t take long for things to become crazy as the season progresses and the “My Roanoke Nightmare” production team finds themselves sucked into the frightening events at the farmhouse.
Its unconventional format is what gives “Roanoke” its fright element. The sections that weren’t captured on camera as a reality program were creepy, but talking-head interviews and a generally shaky plot undermined the eerie atmosphere, placing this season squarely in the center of the pack in terms of scariness.
4. Freak Show (Season 4)
The fourth season of the show, “AHS: Freak Show,” attracted 20 Emmy nominations because of its excellent cast and interesting storylines, all of which were focused around a 1950s carnival freak show run by Elsa Mars (Jessica Lange).
It’s one of the scariest seasons of the show, particularly because of its abundance of enduring adversaries, such as Twisty the Clown (John Carroll Lynch), Edward Mordrake (Wes Bentley), and Dandy Mott (Finn Wittrock).
One of the most recognizable characters in the series is without a doubt Twisty the Clown. He not only kills people, but he also douses himself in a hideous, “grinning” face that, the moment it appeared on TV, instantly became recognizable.
That mask isn’t just for show; it conceals Twisty’s actual face, which we later learn was shot in part during a suicide attempt. He is one of the more interesting—and, dare I say, endearing—villains in “AHS” history because of his terrible past.
As the visage on the back of his head forces him to add more dead Freaks to his own macabre circus group, the violent ghost of Edward Mordrake (Wes Bentley) increases the tension in “Freak Show.”
Dandy Mott (Finn Wittrock), a wealthy, spoiled, and immature psychopath with mother issues who fantasizes about joining the circus himself, is a workout-obsessed character. As the series progresses, Dandy’s murderous, “American Psycho”-like inclinations come into full bloom, inspiring him to mercilessly murder a whole host of people, practically bathe in their blood, and eventually become the season’s main antagonist.
3. Hotel (Season 5)
Not enough credit is given to “Hotel.” The fictitious Hotel Cortez, a famous (and undoubtedly haunted) hotel in Los Angeles that was largely based on the infamous real-life Cecil Hotel, is the focus of “American Horror Story’s” fifth season, one of its scariest to date.
Lady Gaga plays the Countess in the gritty “Hotel,” a vampire who governs over the now-sleazy hotel while killing unaware visitors to feed them to her children, who have white hair and are ferocious. Later on, we find out that Cortez’s most evil presence is really the ghost of its previous owner, James Patrick March (Evan Peters), a sadist who created the establishment purely for the purpose of murdering people (H.H. Holmes, is that you?).
There are many killings and bloody scenes in “Hotel,” including one with The Countess and her boyfriend Donovan that is particularly violent (Matt Bomer). It also has plots about serial murders and drug overdoses, as well as a controversially gruesome scene featuring an “Addiction Demon” and a tool in the shape of a drill. You get an unsettlingly scary season when you combine all of it with the noirish feel and eerie Art Deco aura.
But it doesn’t mean “Hotel” is a doozy of a movie! As Cortez’s transgender bartender, Liz Taylor, who swiftly rose to become one of the series’ best and most adored characters, this season also includes a moving performance by Denis O’Hare (and who actually gets a fairly happy ending, all things considered).
2. Murder House (Season 1)
The First Season of “American Horror Story” Is Still Among the Most Spooky Ones. Not the Least of Which Is that It’s an Immensely Spooky Ghost Story Set Against the Backdrop of A Real-Life Murder House, Which Is Why the First Season of The Show Was so Terrifying (which, Yes, Also Happens to Be a Gorgeous Historic Mansion).
When the Harmon Family (Dylan Mc Dermott, Connie Britton, and Taissa Farmiga) Move Into the Eponymous Los Angeles Manor, They Are Unaware of Its Tragic Past and The Spirits that Still Roam the Property, Including the Ghost of The Previous Owner Who Burned His Family on Fire. the History of The House Has a Very Messed-Up Origin, Though! Other Terrifying Aspects of The Season Include a School Massacre, a Plot Involving Abortion and The Black Dahlia, and The Infamous “rubber Man,” Who… in Any Case, You Already Know.
The Series’ Long-Term Success Was Undoubtedly Aided by “murder House’s” Suspense Aspect. Some of The Most Well-Known Performers and Characters from The Series Were Also First Seen in It, Including Jessica Lange as The Family’s Enigmatic Neighbour Constance Langdon and Evan Peters as Violet’s Lover Tate Langdon.
Evan/Tate Became a Fan Favourite, and Both He and Jessica Lange Would Return for Several Seasons, with Lange Eventually Winning Numerous Honours for Her Performances and Peters Showing up In All but “1984” of The Seasons.
Naturally, “Murder House” Was Also the First Time We Got to See the Forever Spooky Opening Titles that “ahs” Has Grown to Be Known For. the Classic Opening Titles Are Still Among the Most Spooky Parts of The Entire Series. They Combine Stop Motion and Cgi, a Series of Unnerving Graphics, and An Unpleasant Theme Song by César Dávila-Irizarry.
1. Asylum (Season 2)
The Second Season of “American Horror Story,” Which Is the Darkest and Creepiest of All, Is Centred on Institutional Horror. “institution” Presents Some of The Most Bizarre Plots in The History of The Programme. It Is Set in Both the Present and 1964 at The Fictitious Briarcliff Manor (a Catholic Asylum for The Criminally Ill).
Journalist Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson), Who Had Intended to Write About the Treatment of Inmates at The Asylum, Is Instead Committed for Being Gay by Sister Mary Jude (Jessica Lange). Dr. Oliver Thredson Is in Charge of Lana While She Is In A Mental Institution and She Is Put Through Painful Aversion Therapy (Zachary Quinto).
Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe), a Gullible Character, Is Possessed by The Devil and Turns Evil in The Meantime. as If All of That Weren’t Enough, the Asylum’s Chief Physician, Dr. Arthur Arden (James Cromwell), Is Actually a Sadistic Nazi Who Subjects His Patients to Cruel Experiments, the Serial Killer Responsible for The Bloody Face Murders Is Still at Large, and Bloody Face Suspect Kit (Evan Peters) Is Abducted by Aliens. a Lot Is Occurring!
For Their Contributions, Cromwell, Lange, Paulson, and Quinto Received Emmy Nominations (with Cromwell Winning). Even Though the Season Was Quite Horrific, It Also Featured One of The Series’ Most Iconic Musical Numbers, in Which a Crazy Sister Jude (Lange) Sings a Cover of The “name Game” Song While the Entire staff and patients of the asylum dance along.