You can tell a lot about a person by their favorite season of American Horror Story. Most people will name Murder House, Asylum or Coven as their pick for the best season of Ryan Murphy's twisted anthology series, but there are some who will throw you a curveball by naming Hotel or — gasp — even Freak Show as their go-to installment. (Honestly though, Freak Show people, please explain yourselves because clearly you're seeing something in that season that we aren't.)
Of all the recent seasons, American Horror Story: Apocalypse seems the most likely to break through into the top tier since it's a crossover of the largely beloved Murder House and Coven. But before we can figure out where Apocalypse is going to fit into the overall ranking, we need to first figure out how the first seven seasons shake out.
Check out our not-at-all scientific ranking of every season of American Horror Story, and then make your own adjustments to it using the ranker tool below!
7. Freak Show. Hooboy, where do we even start with Freak Show. The fourth season of American Horror Story and Jessica Lange's last one as a full-time cast member suffers from grossly unfulfilled potential. Freak Show just tried to do too much. What was the point of giving us a great character like Twisty the Clown (John Carroll Lynch) but then tossing him aside to make room for a dozen other villains who were also underdeveloped or underused? (See: Edward Mordrake [Wes Bentley], Dell [Michael Chiklis], Stanley [Denis O'Hare] and Chester [Neil Patrick Harris].) There was also the random anachronistic music and the completely botched attempt to comment on society's history of mistreating and disenfranchising the physically disabled or physically different. Freak Show took on a lot, and failed at nearly everything.
6. Roanoke. A big swing and a miss. That's really the only way to describe Roanoke. Ryan Murphy gets beaucoup points for trying to play with the structure and get meta by centering Roanoke on the making of a paranormal documentary series My Roanoke Nightmare and the follow-up series Return to Roanoke: Three Days in Hell, but it just didn't work. Because the season was split between the reenactments and showing the actual actors who played the roles (plus the real-life counterparts. Yeesh!) we barely got any time to actually get to know any of the characters in Roanoke, which meant we didn't get a flying fart when anyone died. The combination of all this led to an American Horror Story first: boredom. Add to that the fact that Roanoke had the biggest hype going into it, given that FX and Murphy didn't even release the title ahead of the premiere, the lack of payoff only felt more egregious.
5. Cult. The biggest problem with Cult is that it tried so hard to make an important political statement, but at that it failed. Miserably. The season started off great, satirizing the current state of American politics and grounding everything by being the first season not to feature supernatural elements. But as the season progressed, the coherency and biting commentary got a bit lost in the American Horror Story of it all. That being said, Cult delivered a few great characters (justice for Meadow!) and some truly memorable moments (Jesus meets Jim Jones) that we won't be forgetting anytime soon.
4. Hotel. Hotel got a pretty bad wrap during its initial run, but in the wake of the past few seasons, the first installment without Jessica Lange doesn't look so bad now, does it? In Lady Gaga's Golden Globe-winning acting debut, Gaga surpassed expectations as the glamorous, vampiric Countess, who was as stylish as she was cruel. And though the timelines got a little wonky and the whole Ten Commandments Killer mystery was a total bust, Hotel was such a lush sensual and visual experience that we want to just spend more time in the Cortez, even though a lot of the plot was pure nonsense.
3. Coven. This is when American Horror Story started to go a bit off the rails as the show began feeling like it was geared more toward creating moments rather than storylines. But the Tumblr-fication of Coven actually worked quite well overall. There has never been a more GIF-able season, and in between the "Surprise, bitch"-es and Steve Nicks cameos there was some real character drama at work. The season also at least tried to address racial politics in the South, a mission which was problematic in execution, sure, but we also can't pretend that Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe) forcing Delphine (Kathy Bates) to watch Roots wasn't the exact kind of moment American Horror Story is now known for. Additionally, Coven gets points for being one of the more gruesome seasons, featuring the horrific homemade minotaur and bleach enemas. This is a horror show, after all. It's supposed to be horrific at times.
2. Murder House. The first season was a classic haunted house story elevated to kitschy new heights. Easily the most straightforward season of American Horror Story, Murder House at times felt a bit predictable (of course Tate was a ghost!), but what Murder House lacked in shocking reveals it more than made up for with its complex family dynamics and eclectic cast of specters haunting the poor Harmons. Also, that Halloween episode truly may be the scariest episode of any American Horror Story season, which is saying a lot.
1. Asylum. The second season was American Horror Story working on all cylinders simultaneously. It had the horror of Murder House, the camp of Coven and all the batshit unpredictability was balanced by grounded character drama. There has never been a relationship that has felt more developed nor more heartbreaking than the one between Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson) and Sister Jude (Jessica Lange). And even though this season had aliens, robot spiders, Ann Frank and the Raspers, all the insanity and shocks felt like they were building toward one cohesive narrative that delivered quite the payoff in the near-perfect season finale.
Disagree? Adjust our ranking using the tool below!
American Horror Story: Apocalypse premieres Wednesday at 10/9c on FX.