American Horror Story — a complete ranking of each season

Photo courtesy of IMDb

By Bridget Sjoberg | News Editor

American Horror Story is one of the best TV series to watch in the fall. The twisted plot lines and dark themes are perfect for October, and the bulk of the show’s ninth season AHS 1984 will be aired on FX this month.

American Horror Story has been running since 2011, with each season depicting a completely different theme, story line and cast of characters. While some of the show’s actors reappear in multiple seasons, the cast often changes to best reflect the theme. Over the show’s eight-year span, AHS has tackled everything from witches to satirizing the 2016 presidential election. Although most episodes of the show have creative plot lines and captivating characters, not every season hits the mark. Here’s a ranking of each season of AHS for your October binging!

1) Asylum (Season 2)

What I like most about Asylum is that the season is legitimately scary. Covering everything from Nazi scientists to serial killers to demonic possessions, Asylum is truly terrifying in all the best ways. The season takes place during the ‘60s in a Massachusetts mental institution, and covers themes like sexuality and the relation between religion and science.

AHS’s cast and acting were also at their best during this season, earning a variety of Emmy nominations for role portrayal and for costume and makeup design. Scenes like the “name game” sequence and Lana Winters escaping Briarcliff are some of the show’s most memorable moments. Asylum is truly AHS at its absolute best.

2) Murder House (Season 1)

Murder House is the first season of AHS, and it’s the show’s most identifiable and memorable. When a person thinks of AHS, Murder House is most likely what comes to mind. Taking place in a haunted home in modern day Los Angeles, this season follows a family as they move in and begin to discover the house’s terrifying past and long-held secrets. Murder House also contains one of the show’s best casts, and does an impressive job depicting a variety of time periods through flash back sequences.

3) Roanoke (Season 6)

Roanoke is by far AHS’ most underrated season. After a departure from the show’s original tone in seasons 3-5, Roanoke returned to what the show does best, focusing less on over-the-top costume and set design and more on being legitimately scary by following dark themes and a haunting story line. Roanoke pays homage to The Blair Witch Project, with half the season acting as a fake TV show about a haunted house in North Carolina, and the other half about the actors who play the fake characters visiting the house later for a reality show. The show provides dark commentary on the media’s longing for ratings and commercialization, even at the expense of what is safe or moral.

4) Coven (Season 3)

Coven began a trend for the show of seasons that lack in being legitimately scary, but AHS’ third season is still one of the show’s most recognizable and beloved by fans. The season follows a “coven” of witches in modern-day New Orleans, and follows themes like race, exploitation and where the line is drawn morally in regards to interfering with human lifespans. While the season is a bit more light-hearted than others, it still features some of AHS’ most memorable characters, as well as a soundtrack of Fleetwood Mac tracks.

5) Cult (Season 7)

Cult is an incredibly unique season of AHS, taking place in and dealing with issues of modern day. The season takes place after the 2016 presidential election in a fictional suburban Michigan town overtaken by fear and divided over political opinions and figures. This season plays off of dark themes, and features Kai Anderson (Evan Peters), a charismatic leader recruiting town citizens for his cult of murderous clowns. Although the season is obviously dramatized per AHS-style, the themes of political divisiveness and persuasion looked at throughout the season make it a worthwhile watch. However, compared to some of the show’s best seasons, Cult is a bit forgettable and can fly under the radar.

6) Freak Show (Season 4)

Although Freak Show lacks a cohesive plot and often times drags as the season goes on, AHS’ fourth season still features an impressive cast and is one of the show’s most visually interesting—the set and costume design are incredibly fun to watch. Freak Show follows a ‘50s circus in rural Florida, plagued by discrimination by local city residents, a collector looking to monetize human body parts and a killer clown kidnapping and killing town members. All elements make for an entertaining season, but a confusing one as well—the season doesn’t contain a central plot, but rather separate elements combined into one story. Freak Show is still memorable, but is the last season with Jessica Lange as a main cast member.

7) Hotel (Season 5)

Hotel is just as wacky as Asylum, containing plot elements like a yearly meeting of famed serial killers, vampiric hotel residents and even dramatized commentary on the modern-day vaccination debate. The season takes place in modern-day Los Angeles at the fictional Hotel Cortez, home of past murderous events and a cast of eclectic characters. Lady Gaga joined the AHS cast this season, playing a role typically played by Jessica Lange in the past. While Hotel is visually impressive and entertaining, the season also lacks a cohesive plot and often resorts to graphic violent and sexual scenes for pure shock value. It also feels the least like AHS, losing similarity to all other seasons.

8) Apocalypse (Season 8)

AHS’ eighth season felt extremely promising — a combination of Murder House and Coven, two of the show’s most beloved seasons. It also promised to bring back past cast members like Jessica Lange and Taissa Farmiga. However, Apocalypse proved to be very underwhelming — it lacked a cohesive plot, and each episode seemed to get less interesting as the season went on. Apocalypse relied off of pure nostalgia for past seasons to carry the show instead of creating a new and impressive story line. Additionally, Murder House was only addressed partially, much to many fans’ disappointment.

To see how AHS’ ninth 1984-themed season compares to the rest, watch American Horror Story on FX at 9 p.m. CT.