American Horror Story has blossomed from an obscure FX series to a full-blown franchise with 11 American Horror Story seasons of the main show under its belt, but some are still better than others. Created by the enigmatic Ryan Murphy, the series premiered in 2011 and has released a new season nearly every year since. Anthology series AHS revolutionized what horror television could do, proving that a broadcast show didn’t need to skimp on the scares and horror to air. Since its premiere, the show has won over 100 awards, with several actors bringing home awards for their performances.

The anthology horror series, American Horror Story is known for recycling its stellar ensemble cast into a new storyline with each season, all with different themes. The first season was a haunted house storyline, and it then moved on to everything from mental asylums and carnivals to hotels and witch’s covens. The seasons also connected in many ways, even outside the ensemble cast playing different roles over the way. Some seasons achieve this better than others, and while most American Horror Story seasons are beloved by the fans, a few have received a mixed reception.



11 Season 6 – AHS: Roanoke (2016)

Shelby looking scared in American Horror Story Roanoke

Though the format of American Horror Story: Roanoke is interesting and possibly the weirdest of all the American Horror Story seasons. Although the American Horror Story seasons are all connected, one does not expect scenes from other seasons to be replayed. The found footage part of the season made things look different from the rest of the series, and it never seemed to feel right in the end. Sarah Paulson said she wasn’t a fan of the season, saying she was “underwhelmed by the whole experience” (via The Independent). This was the season that caused her to leave the franchise for a short time, and many viewers agree that Roanoke is the worst season of American Horror Story.

10 Season 10 – AHS: Double Feature (2021)

Harry Gardner looking scared in AHS: Double Feature

American Horror Story: Double Feature tried to tell two stories in one season, although they both connected to each other. The season was aided enormously by newcomer Macaulay Culkin alongside a fine selection of cast alumni. The two stories, Red Tide and Death Valley, had different locations, with one taking place at sea and the other on land. The season felt like a Stephen King story brought to American Horror Story and told stories about people setting out to go somewhere to find hope, only to find horrors and nightmares, leading to the AHS: Double Feature‘s captivating ending. The season received positive reviews, but one of the least appreciated when awards season rolled around. While it’s not a bad show by any stretch, it still pales in quality to the best American Horror Story seasons.

9 Season 7 – AHS: Cult (2017)

Kai Anderson sitting on a couch in American Horror Story: Cult

Though somewhat disregarded by many fans for incorporating politics and steering away from non-human horrors, American Horror Story: Cult holds up much better than other American Horror Story seasons. Sarah Paulson’s character is difficult to relate to initially, but her triumph is surprisingly enthralling. The latter portion of the season is much more enjoyable for this reason, not to mention that Evan Peters as Andy Warhol alongside a slew of real-life cult leaders, is absolutely mesmerizing. The season only picked up seven Emmy nominations and received lukewarm reviews from critics. AHS: Cult hasn’t aged well either, as its social commentary was so tied to the moment of Donald Trump’s election win that it’s already feeling far less poignant. Perhaps leaning more into the horror elements of the show would have saved Cult from being one of the worst American Horror Story seasons.

8 Season 5 – AHS: Hotel (2015)

Iris behind the Cortez' counter in American Horror Story Hotel

Hotel was one of the weaker American Horror Story seasons according to critics, although it did present the arrival of Lady Gaga to the series with a fantastic performance. It was her role as The Countess that helped Gaga win a Golden Globe Award for her performance. Evan Peters is great as James March, based on a real-life killer, while Kathy Bates and Dennis O’Hare quite rightly become the focus of AHS: Hotel by the halfway mark. This ended up as one of the lesser-renowned seasons based on critical reviews in American Horror Story history, but it remains great fun thanks to the actors. There are some things Hotel does better than even the best American Horror Story seasons — especially visually — but it’s far too inconsistent to be close to the top spot.

7 Season 11 – AHS: NYC (2022)

American Horror Story Season 11 NYC Sandra Bernhard Fran

American Horror Story: NYC seemed like a return to form for the series. Billie Lourd continued to fit well in her role as the new lead actor for the franchise, and the season brought back some older actors who had been missing for a long time, including Zachary Quinto and Patti LuPone. The incorporation of real-life events is much smoother and more seamless than in other seasons. The scope of the season is quite broad but allows for newer story avenues, avoiding the potential of repeated horrors. It also provides a much-needed LGBTQ+ presence in the horror genre, allowing the season to pick up a GLAAD Media Award nomination. While not one of the best American Horror Story seasons, NYC is arguably only held off from the top spot by the quality of the higher-ranked seasons — and it would have likely received more recognition if it wasn’t attached to the AHS brand given the story it’s telling.

6 Season 8 – AHS: Apocalypse (2018)

The Antichrist, Michael Langdon, in American Horror Story: Apocalypse.

After several American Horror Story seasons, Apocalypse was the season that brought everything together. This was a crossover with the first season, Murder House, as well as Coven and Hotel. The season saw the antichrist born, with the witches from Coven showing up to battle him and stop the end of the world. This crossover brought back several actors, including Sarah Paulson and Evan Peters playing multiple roles, while characters from the past seasons also showed up for the massive battle. The season received positive reviews and picked up five Emmy Awards, although it was listed as a drama for the first time instead of its regular miniseries listing.

5 Season 4 – AHS: Freak Show (2014)

Sarah Paulson as Bette and Dot Tattler American Horror Story Freak Show

American Horror Story: Freak Show has possibly the strongest ending from any American Horror Story season, and it might be the best representation of what American Horror Story seasons represent. There are carnival freaks, ghosts, tragedies, and even some musical numbers to shake things up. The tragic death of Meep in AHS: Freak Show underlines the horrors on display here. The season is almost a long-form remake of the classic horror film, The Freaks, which itself is featured in the season. The season is much more tragic than horrifying and brought in an astonishing 20 Emmy nominations.

4 Season 9 – AHS: 1984 (2019)

Billie Lourd in American Horror Story.

American Horror Story: 1984 brought something completely different to the franchise. While the season suffered from the absence of Evan Peters and Sarah Paulson, both Billie Lourd and Emma Roberts valiantly attempted to pick up the slack. The season was based on 1980s slasher movies, lifting tropes from the genre and decade, while delighting fans and critics. The season earned critical acclaim and fans loved it as well, praising the lighter tone compared to other American Horror Story seasons and its willingness to have fun with the horror twists and turns. The season also picked up four Emmy nominations.

3 Season 1 – AHS: Murder House (2011)

Moira standing with Tate and Constance in American Horror Story Murder House

The original American Horror Story is very nearly perfect and certainly the purest form of all American Horror Story seasons. The season feels less focused than later seasons, but also less forced. It allows events to unfold gradually, to breathe, and build slowly a tone that becomes excruciating by the end. It is later confirmed that the Murder House is a portal to Hell in AHS: Apocalypse, which somewhat undermines the revelation that Tate is the center of the house’s evil. Jessica Lange’s performance steals the show and earned her a Primetime Emmy Award for the season, while the show picked up 17 total nominations.

2 Season 3 – AHS: Coven (2013)

The witches walk in line in American Horror Story Coven

Often considered one of the top fan-favorite American Horror Story seasons, there is much to love about American Horror Story: Coven, particularly the iconic performances which ooze with sass and potent feminism. The season features a cast at its peak, now complete with new members Angela Bassett and Kathy Bates joining returning stars Sarah Paulson and Jessica Lange. Add in Kathy Bates, Emma Roberts, and Taissa Farmiga, and this might be one of the best casts of the franchise. AHS: Coven picked up five different Emmy nominations for acting, with Bates and Lange winning awards

1 Season 2 – AHS: Asylum (2012)

Sister Mary Eunice from American Horror Story Asylum

American Horror Story: Asylum had a lot that was riding on it as it was the second AHS season — and the bar it set has yet to be beaten, as it’s inarguably the best American Horror Story season . After a popular season 1, Ryan Murphy wanted to change things up in each subsequent season and this one had to work for any future seasons to see the light of day. The good news is that it featured the finest cast ensemble, each delivering a compelling and disturbing performance. AHS: Asylum also boasts Jessica Lange in a leading role for the first time as the terrifying and tragic Sister Jude. One of the best American Horror Story seasons, it picked up 17 Emmy nominations, winning an acting award for James Cromwell along the way.

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