American Horror Story: 7 Unmissable Seasons That Will Haunt Your Dreams (and 5 You Should Forget Ever Existed)

With 12 seasons and a 13th on the way, we’re recommending the best seasons to watch and a few you can skip.

AMERICAN HORROR STORY: ROANOKE -- Pictured: Lady Gaga as Scathach. CR: Prashant Gupta/FX

Ryan Murphy’s long-running FX horror anthology series American Horror Story seems to have been running on fumes for a few years now, but it wasn’t always that way.

In the early days, American Horror Story was appointment viewing. Fans devoted hours to poring over teasers and promotional material to try and figure out what each season would be about and what characters might appear. Many diehards still exist, but the show’s glory days are behind it.

Still, there are 12 seasons out and a 13th on its way, so if you are thinking of catching up, here are our recommendations for which ones you need to watch and the few you can skip.

Murder House

WATCH! As the show’s first season, Murder House establishes the overall vibe, introducing actors who would go on to recur frequently throughout the anthology, such as Jessica Lange, Dylan McDermott, Zachary Quinto, Lily Rabe, Evan Peters, and Sarah Paulson.

The Harmon family moves into a restored mansion in Los Angeles, unaware the ghosts of its past residents haunt the place, many of whom are disturbed individuals with malicious intentions toward the new family.

AMERICAN HORROR STORY: HOTEL — Pictured: Lady Gaga as The Countess. CR: Frank Ockenfels/FX /


SKIP! The only real reason to watch Hotel is to appreciate Lady Gaga as The Countess. If you’re not a huge Gaga fan, then Hotel probably won’t hold much appeal. It’s a particularly gruesome season with a messier-than-usual storyline.

Given former series leading lady Jessica Lange had departed by the end of Freak Show, this season felt like a significant step down with tons of random scenes and subplots that seemingly go nowhere—a problem that has plagued many seasons of American Horror Story but became far more pronounced in Hotel.


WATCH! Asylum is easily my favorite season of American Horror Story and, in general, the best of the whole series, though it still suffers from some dropped storylines (like the aliens).

Not only is it the scariest season, Asylum also introduced fan-favorite characters like Sister Mary Eunice, Lana Winters, and Pepper, plus the formidable serial killer Bloody Face. Set in 1964, Asylum expanded on what American Horror Story could be, taking us behind the walls of the fictional asylum Briarcliff Manor.

02_EVAN_BASEMENT_0263+270_RGB_FAMERICAN HORROR STORY: CULT — Pictured: Evan Peters as Kai Anderson. CR: Frank Ockenfels/FX /


SKIP! Evan Peters is beloved by American Horror Story fans and delivers one of his best performances with one of the series’ most depraved and disturbing characters in Cult. But that’s about the nicest thing I can say about this sloppy season.

Released during an exceptionally politically charged election year (aren’t they always?), Cult reeked of “we want to do a season parodying the current political climate,” and that’s all. It was as if the writers had a vibe and vague commentary they wanted to get across and little else. It all falls apart into a heap of strange and disconnected storylines, though this season does end up being surprisingly funny at times (perhaps not always in ways it intended).


WATCH! On paper, Coven sounded like the perfect idea for a season of American Horror Story. Who wouldn’t want to watch a terrifying horror story about witches set in New Orleans? Though Coven fell short of my expectations, I still think it’s one of the better seasons, and, like Asylum, it introduced many fan favorites who would later return, like Madison Montgomery, Fiona Goode, Misty Day, Marie Laveau, and Cordelia Goode.

It’s worth watching Coven, if only for the memes, as this season significantly upped the camp factor and gave us so many hilarious and GIF-worthy moments. Lest we forget, “What is this? KNOTTY PINE?!?”

pre_361a8e213efadf5cf603b4e977c223a8American Horror Story: Double Feature — Pictured: Sarah Paulson as Mamie Eisenhower. CR: FX /

Double Feature

SKIP! Double Feature was an unorthodox season. It combined two relatively distinct stories, so half of the season was about a New England family being terrorized by vampire-like creatures (Red Tide), and the other half followed a group of teenagers getting caught up in an extraterrestrial conspiracy (Death Valley).

Most agree that Double Feature got off to a strong start with Red Tide, but its disappointing ending, coupled with the fact it leads into the very forgettable Death Valley, makes this season a skip.

Freak Show

WATCH! Many later seasons of American Horror Story are considered polarizing, but Freak Show was the earliest season to divide fans. I think people have grown to appreciate it more in recent years because the show started to go downhill in the seasons that came after.

Taking place at one of the last freak shows remaining in 1952 Jupiter, Florida, Freak Show marked the end of an era, as Jessica Lange exited the show as a series regular afterward. Despite what you might expect based on the setting, Freak Show subverts expectations and is a more tonally grounded season than, say, Coven, focusing heavily on its characters.


SKIP! As a member of the LGBTQIA+ community myself, I had complicated feelings about NYC. For starters, it’s frustrating how limited this show’s scope often is when it comes to the queer community, focusing primarily on cis white men and only rarely widening its range.

Salon’s article about NYC is excellent, and as writer Kelly McClure puts it, it’s no wonder Peters isn’t in it after playing Jeffrey Dahmer in Murphy’s other series, Monster on Netflix, “what would he have played here? Another white guy stalking and killing gays?” She also notes the disservice this season does to its lesbian characters.

But even putting that aside, NYC falls into the familiar trap of trying to juggle too many disparate storylines and not really giving any of them the resolution and depth they deserve. It’s not the show’s worst season, but it’s still far from the best. I feel like your mileage will vary as NYC has become pretty contentious in online circles.

1_kathy_batesAMERICAN HORROR STORY: ROANOKE — Pictured: Kathy Bates as Butcher. CR: Frank Ockenfels/FX /


WATCH! Roanoke is another season that has spawned extreme opinions on both sides of the fence. I happen to fall into the camp of people who enjoyed it.

As a folk horror fan, I loved the direction Roanoke took and how different it felt from previous seasons. Roanoke is a huge departure for the FX series in that it’s filmed as a fictional documentary and a found-footage horror story. Perfect for fans of The Blair Witch Project.

02American Horror Story: Delicate — Pictured: Kim Kardashian as Siobhan Corbyn. CR: Eric Liebowitz/FX /


SKIP! Announcing Kim Kardashian starring in her first significant acting role drew a lot of scorn, but surprisingly, Kardashian isn’t really the problem with Delicate. The season itself is just very boring and ultimately lackluster.

Based on the book Delicate Condition by Danielle Valentine, Delicate really never takes off. Instead, the characters flounder aimlessly, running circles around each other, resulting in many unanswered questions (like, what was the deal with the spiders?). It also doesn’t help that it was split in half and delayed significantly due to the strikes, causing it to lose what little momentum it had.

pre_59cfebb28ef59efd7d26b11888cec5ceAMERICAN HORROR STORY: 1984 — Pictured: CR: DeRon Horton as Ray Powell. CR: Kurt Iswarienko FX /


WATCH! It would be pretty hard to mess up a season dedicated to the most influential slasher films of all time, such as Friday the 13thHalloween, and Sleepaway Camp, and luckily, 1984 did a great job at creating a fun season that takes place in the 1980s during the reopening of a summer camp.

It’s campy, silly, hilarious, and features some genuinely gruesome kills. All in all, 1984 strikes the tone just right and is perfect for horror fans who like sleuthing for references and easter eggs.

4_Adina_Porter_0170_re.01AMERICAN HORROR STORY: APOCALYPSE — Pictured: Adina Porter as Dinah Stevens. CR: Kurt Iswarienko/FX /


WATCH! Apocalypse firmly established that American Horror Story is not technically an anthology series as this is a definitive crossover season between CovenMurder House, and Hotel, with many characters returning, including Jessica Lange as her Murder House character Constance Lange.

If you enjoyed Coven and Murder House, then you can’t miss this one. It’s basically a sequel to both that follows the witches as they fight Constance’s adopted son, Michael Langdon a.k.a. the Antichrist.

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