Ranking Sarah Paulson, Angela Bassett, Evan Peters & More ‘American Horror Story’ Stars

American Horror Story’s anthology structure is good for, it is as an actor’s showcase. The genre conventions of horror allow actors to go for broke, playing demonic nuns and serial killers and final girls and addicts.

That’s why, despite the show’s infamy for having the wheels come off in the last third of every season, or having entire seasons being deemed skippable at best, we’ve seen some bona fide stars come out of the series, or have their careers revived by it.

After all, where else can you watch Jessica Lange play a conniving nun in one season and a youth-obsessed witch in the next? Or watch Evan Peters play a maniacal right-wing cult leader, along with Andy Warhol, Charles Manson, and Jesus Christ, all in a singular season?

Here, we’ve rounded up the 10 best actors on the show based on the consistency and strength of their various performances on the show, along with some of their must-see roles.

American Horror Story Double Feature Finn Wittrock11. Double Feature (Season 10)
Freak Show, considered by fans and critics alike to be one of the worst seasons of the series thus far, had one bright spot — and that was Finn Wittrock, playing Dandy Mott, a stunted man-child turned mentally deranged serial killer. While Mott has undoubtedly been Wittrock’s most iconic AHS role (and let’s face it, it’s a tough one to beat), he’s showcased his range as an inbred cannibal in Roanoke and a tortured writer in Double Feature.

AHS 6_lily_rabe9. Lily Rabe
Always a welcome sight in any AHS season, Rabe has a chameleonic quality as an actor that lends itself well to the anthology format — playing a Stevie Nicks-obsessed witch in Coven, a possessed nun in Asylum, and serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Hotel, among others. Although she’s had smaller roles in later seasons, she’s considered one of the great AHS actresses for a reason.

American Horror Story - Emma Roberts

8. Emma Roberts
Let’s be honest: Roberts deserves to be this high up on the list for her portrayal of Madison Montgomery alone, a spoiled brat and former actress whose path to fame goes awry when her witchy abilities emerge. In less capable hands, Montgomery could have become a caricature, but Roberts expertly portrays the inner turmoil and self-loathing behind her iciness. And in the latest season, Delicate, Roberts shows her range as a pregnant woman in her own Rosemary’s Baby-inflected nightmare.

Angela Bassett in 'American Horror Story'

7. Angela Bassett
It is absolutely criminal to rank Oscar-nominated legend Angela Bassett this low… and yet the blame has to go to Ryan Murphy for consistently underutilizing her throughout the series! Entering the world of AHS with a bang as voodoo queen extraordinaire Marie Laveau did not stop Murphy and Co. from providing Bassett with an utter lack of good material in Freak Show and Hotel, although her dual role in Roanoke was marginally more interesting, in my opinion.

Frances Conroy in 'American Horror Story'6. Frances Conroy
Remembered for playing inarguably the most fashionable character in the entire series, the icy witch Myrtle Snow, Frances Conroy has turned in a wide variety of iconic characters in her AHS seasons, but it’s the stoic divas — Snow, the erotica author and vampire Belle Noir in Double Feature — that set her apart.

American Horror Story: Hotel - Kathy Bates as Iris and Denis O'Hare as Liz Taylor5. Denis O’Hare

It truly seems as if O’Hare has popped up all over our TV screens over the past decade or so, but nowhere has he been more prolific than in the AHS franchise. Often playing less flashy roles, O’Hare became iconic for fans with his portrayal of Liz Taylor, a transgender bartender, in Hotel — a performance that is considered by many to be the redeeming factor of the whole season — and that’s saying something, considering it starred Lady Gaga.

Kathy Bates as Butcher in American Horror Story: Roanoke

4. Kathy Bates
One of the most consistent actors on the show, Kathy Bates has been turning in incredible performances since Coven, with her role as a noxious reanimated slave owner (although her performance as an actress who goes a little too Method in Roanoke is a personal favorite). If anything, Bates’s excellent work can often be overshadowed by flashier, more out-there performances by her castmates.

Evan Peters as Kai Anderson in American Horror Story3. Evan Peters
Many of the actors on this list are indelible parts of the AHS ensemble because, no matter how different their characters are from season to season, they have a certain quality which shines through with every new part. Peters is not one of those actors. Over the course of the show, he has played the ghost of a mass murderer, a mental hospital patient, a Frankenstein-d frat boy, and a cracked-out 1920s hotelier, among others, moving from part to part with seeming effortlessness.

American Horror Story - Jessica Lange as Constance Langdon2. Jessica Lange
A Hollywood icon before ever even stepping foot onto a Ryan Murphy production, Lange became an integral part of AHS from her very first appearance as the domineering next door neighbor from hell Constance Langdon. Above all, a Ryan Murphy show delivers camp, and Lange’s assortment of melancholic (and often murderous) divas encapsulates that essence like no other.

Sarah Paulson as Ms. Wilhemina Venable/Cordelia Foxx in American Horror Story: Apocalypse1. Sarah Paulson
American Horror Story simply couldn’t be American Horror Story without her. From her initial guest-starring role in Murder House as the woo-woo medium Billie Dean Howard to a starring role in Asylum as a lesbian committed to a 1950s mental institution, Paulson has been responsible for many of the anthology’s highest points — not to mention the fact that her signature scream of terror, heard most notably in Asylum, Cult, and Roanoke, could very well be one of the best ever put to screen.

 

 

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