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Best 'American Horror Story' Seasons

Watch the best 'American Horror Story' seasons and never sleep again.

By Stephen HamiltonPublished 8 years ago 6 min read

American Horror Story brought more than chills, thrills, and screams to the screen when it began in 2011. While those things were present and accounted for, as expected of a horror show, American Horror Story brought a new kind of television to the masses. The makers of American Horror Story brought us a series where a different story is told each season, with many of the same actors but a new setting with a new plot. This is not entirely new, but it’s something that’s been missing from television for quite some time. Thus, American Horror Story brings the return of the anthology television series and the advent of other shows that will take this template and bring it into other genres.

Rise of the Anthology Show

True Detective is an excellent example of this, with its genre residing firmly in crime drama. Another example is Fargo, which has its seasons set in 2006 and 1979 with radically different stories. If you are the sort who prefers your crime of the genuine sort, American Crime Story follows the anthology season format as well. It delivers true crime with each season focusing on a single important case, such as O.J. Simpson in the first season. Then there is Scream Queens, which shares producers with American Horror Story, and is a horror and dark comedy show.

As you can see, American Horror Story has had a real effect on the landscape of television. The use of new characters, settings, and stories allows the show to keep itself fresh and bring new content to viewers in a way that a typical television show might not. In addition to this, it really brought horror television to the mainstream and made it a weekly part of many people’s lives. The show has been nominated for a plethora of awards and gone on to win 40 of them. Jessica Lange has won the largest amount of these with a total of nine awards. Other actors and actresses who have won include James Cromwell, Kathy Bates, Lady Gaga, Zachary Quinto, and Sarah Paulson.

Ranking the Best Seasons

Because this is an anthology series, there is always going to be a debate over which seasons were the best and which didn’t quite hit the mark. As an avid horror fan and someone who has enjoyed American Horror Story since episode one, I have my own opinions. Feel free to disagree, as I always enjoy hearing a new perspective on the show.

Number five on my list is going to go to a season that I initially was super excited about. It was an idea I was really behind but it didn’t quite hit the mark in the end. The season that did the least for me so far is "Freak Show." Don’t get me wrong, I loved the idea of a sideshow storyline. I also adore rooting for the underdog. I enjoy settings in the past, and this one is set in the early 1950s. But I feel that a lot of times, this season was just underwhelming. There was some shock and awe when seeing the sideshow freaks for the first time, but it wasn’t something that carried over throughout the season. If the killer clown had lasted a bit longer, maybe that would have done the trick. I mean everyone loves murderous clowns, right? I wouldn’t advise against seeing this season because it’s interesting in its own right, but I do feel like other seasons of the show did more with less. Even the exaggerated settings and characters fell a bit flat at times in Freak Show.

This season starts in 1830s New Orleans and starts with a bang. The first episode indulges in some major torture and bloodshed, showing that nothing is going to be off limits this time around. The main story revolves around the present day and a group of witches who range from old to young. The young women are at an academy to learn more about their powers. These powers range from the typical telekinesis to the downright strange activities with a human voodoo doll. It is a great concept and many moments were brilliant, as magic is definitely fun to watch and allows for interesting scenarios. The focus is mainly put on Zoe, played by Taissa Farmiga, who is largely the same character as she was in Season 1. I found that kind of disappointing, as I really would have liked to see her character traits range a bit more. That said, If you love witches, are into the torture-porn genre, or just enjoy the atmosphere of New Orleans, you might enjoy this a bit more than I did. It had its highlights in any case and the set was beautiful, as always.

We come to the middle of the road with number three on my list, "Hotel." This season started out with lots of gripping storylines, and I was really impressed with the Countess, played by Lady Gaga. There were a lot of Easter eggs throughout the season, nodding toward other important horror movies of the past. The cast was overall really talented this season and I think that was unexpected for some with the departure of Jessica Lange. The person who really sold the season to me, however, was Evan Peters, who played James March. The visuals were magnificent as well, with beautiful colors, luxurious furnishings, and all the bells and whistles. The problem for me was that the second half of the season went a bit downhill. The finale turned out to be amazing, but for a few episodes, I had a couple of doubts about how things would end up. That’s the only thing that really made it three instead of a bit higher.

That brings us to number two on the list, which is "Asylum." The second season threw us into some crazy situations. It also made the transition into an anthology series with the new seasons. "Asylum" focuses on psychological horror for the most part. There was a brilliant setting of an old-time asylum with the patients who were never going to get out. It explored religion, sexuality, psychology, racism, and even aliens by the end. That’s the only beef I have with the show, however. It brought too many things to the plate. The addition of aliens didn’t make a lot of sense and took away from what the story could have been without it. Despite that, the cast was great. Jessica Lange, Evan Peters, and Sarah Paulson proved they were more than capable of taking on new characters and doing them justice. This season was a great addition to season one and I don’t have a lot of complaints about it.

Finally, we come to number one. For those of you who are already American Horror Story junkies, I’m sure you know where I’m going. The best setting and ultimately the singular best season of American Horror Story was the very first, with Ryan Murphy and company bringing us "Murder House." First of all, the cast was amazing. We had Connie Britton and Dylan McDermott as main characters, Jessica Lange in her first regular television role, and guest appearances from people like Zachary Quinto and Kate Mara. In addition, we get relative newcomers in young actor Evan Peters and actress Taissa Farmiga. Evans, in particular, made the season what it was and showed acting chops that were impressive. And the plot? The surprise twists that pop up were unexpected and exciting. I enjoyed every single episode and was waiting for the next all week. That’s not common for me so it says something.

All in all, American Horror Story has brought us some really talented actors and actresses put into really original and exciting settings. From a house that was the scene of a murder to an asylum with insane and dangerous patients, this show brings it to the table. Do you want witches, vampires, dead men walking, or torture? This is the show for you. Want to explore racism, homophobia, and other important social issues? You’ll find some of that here as well. Start with season one and go from there. I offer my ranking as a guide to what seasons might appeal most to you, the readers. It’s absolutely a show worth watching, especially for a horror fan, like myself. Settle in with Evan Peters, Jessica Lange, Sarah Paulson, and others as they make you jump in your seat at all the twists and turns. Just watch out for that clown. He really is creepy.

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About the Creator

Stephen Hamilton

Definitive movie buff. Quickly realized that it was more financially prudent to write about film than trying to beg for millions of dollars to make his own.

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    Stephen HamiltonWritten by Stephen Hamilton

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