Ryan Murphy’s ‘American Horror Story”s best characters, ranked
It’s been a helluva good run for American Horror Story fans. Ahead of the eighth season of the horror anthology series, American Horror Story was picked up for a tenth season. FX Networks CEO John Landgraf told Deadline that Ryan Murphy simply asked for a tenth season and they “were happy to give” it to him. He further added that he didn’t know whether the tenth could be the final installment of it.
Like just about every other AHS fan, we’re crazy about every role Lange has ever portrayed in the show, but we were particularly excited to see her return in S8 as Constance – and have been ever since the chilling finale of Murder House. The character is one of our absolute faves and Lange’s performance in the role is absolutely killer. But how does Constance stack up against the rest of the greatest characters from AHS?
A lot of that comes down to . . . whether Ryan and his collaborators, like (showrunner) Time Minear, could come up with stories that they are excited about.
It was a tough one to whittle down, but here’s our ranking of the 21 best American Horror Story characters so far.
21. Violet Harmon (Taissa Farmiga): Murder House
Definitely the most normal character on this list, Violet is a chain-smoking, angst-ridden teenage girl whose nihilism leads to her getting mixed up with a legit psycho of a bad boy – and meeting a grim fate because of it.
Farmiga is vulnerable and devastatingly sad in the role, offering a reminder of how savage and lonely being a teenage girl can be. Especially when you live in a goddamn haunted house.
20. Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson): Asylum
Ambitious, headstrong, and smart, Winters doesn’t just manage to survive being wrongfully committed to Briarcliff Manor – she also manages to bring the establishment down from the inside.
19. Kai Anderson (Evan Peters): Cult
We’re honestly still underwhelmed by Cult, which felt a little too on the nose in terms of current affairs and not quite sharp enough to be considered great satire. But we’ll admit that Kai was an inspired character – even if he isn’t quite the best there’s ever been.
Embodying a terrifying blend of toxic masculinity and manipulative charisma, Kai is one of the scariest villains of AHS and also one of the most human.
18. Myrtle Snow (Frances Conroy): Coven
Firstly, she takes a melon baller to the eyes of her associates with all the casual ease of a woman grabbing a few fresh scoops of ice cream from the freezer.
But most importantly, Myrtle’s quips and love for fashion mark her out as one of the most memorable AHS characters ever. Including screaming “Balenciaga!” as she’s burned to the stake.
17. Dr. Oliver Thredson a.k.a. Bloody Face (Zachary Quinto): Asylum
Initially appearing as little more than a fiendish doctor pushing conversion therapy onto homosexual patients, Dr. Thredson was further revealed to be the psycho killer Bloody Face.
The character is already terrifying for his behavior as a doctor, but by the time he’s explaining the backstory of Bloody Face, he’s full on nightmare fuel. An aspect made all the more chilling by Quinto’s expertly (and chillingly) restrained performance in the role.
16. Madison Montgomery (Emma Roberts): Coven
A Hollywood brat of a diva whose witchy powers only serve to amplify her strength as a supreme bitch (rather than The Supreme of the season), Madison is a glorious tabloid headline of a character perfectly played by Roberts.
The character undoubtedly provided a precursor to Roberts’s brash comedic lead role in Murphy’s horror comedy Scream Queens. The actor lends her talent to such endlessly quotable lines as: “It’s too hot, my friggin’ vagina’s sweating.” Iconic.
15. Pepper (Naomi Grossman): Asylum / Freak Show
Pepper has a heartbreaking backstory in which she’s framed for the murder of her sister’s child and sent to Briarcliff. She also gets abducted by aliens and comes back with an astoundingly superior intellect.
The character represents a core theme shared by Asylum and Freak Show regarding the mistreatment of people ascribed by mainstream society as being abnormal. Something perfectly highlighted by Grossman’s compassionate, multilayered performance in the role.
14. Liz Taylor (Denis O’Hare): Hotel
O’Hare’s greatest AHS performance sharply evokes some of Elizabeth Taylor’s most iconic cinematic moments, but beneath the glamor is a great deal of tragedy – Liz Taylor might be the most heartbreaking character of AHS.
Simply seeking an opportunity to live her truth and to embrace her identity in a place where people can accept her, Liz discovers a chosen family among the ghosts and the vampires of The Cortez.
But her heartache at having to leave her real family to do so echoes through the whole hotel.
13. Zoe Benson (Taissa Farmiga): Coven
We’re of the opinion that Zoe doesn’t get nearly enough love. Sure, she could be a little obnoxious – but we’re also so here for the power of her killer vagina and the scene where she executes her rapist by screwing him to death.
12. Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe): Coven / Hotel
We still think fondly of the scene in which Queenie forces the violently racist Madame Delphine LaLaurie to watch Roots, but we also love how the character is developed in Coven (even if her Hotel scenes were a little underwhelming by comparison).
With the ability to turn her body into a human voodoo doll, Queenie inflicts all manner of pain upon herself to transfer upon other people, marking her out as a young woman of formidable strength.
But she also has some of the most wonderful one-liners in Coven, including suggesting that if Madison Montgomery is dead, “it’s probably because she got wasted and offered the Grim Reaper a handjob or something.”
11. Dr, Arthur Arden a.k.a. Dr. Hans Gruper (James Cromwell) Asylum / Freak Show
Cromwell is just an absolute treasure and we doubt we’ve ever seen the actor in such a disturbing and horrific role as that of the Nazi doctor of Briarcliffe.
His sadistic delight in torture and experimentation provides some of the most disturbing sequences of the entire show.
10. Misty Day (Lily Rabe): Coven
The Stevie Nicks obsessed white witch is a standout within Coven, providing an astounding vision of female endurance and power set against a backdrop of (relatable) Fleetwood Mac worship.
Though she’s a serious contender to become The Supreme of the season, her determination to reject such power only makes her all the more captivating. All she really cares about is meeting Nicks.
9. Bette and Dot Tattler (Sarah Paulson): Freak Show
Based on real life conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton, Bette and Dot’s arc provides a harrowing struggle between two fighting identities and their respective fight for autonomy.
Their tragic lives are executed extraordinarily well by Paulson, who provides great distinguishing depth to both characters, making them two of the most unique and compelling ever seen on screen.
8. Sister Jude Martin (Jessica Lange): Asylum
Starting Asylum as a villain and ending it a sympathetic victim of the very hospital she once forced people to suffer within, Sister Jude is possibly the most complex character in AHS history so far.
We could reel off all sorts of standout moments, but it really comes back to the fantasy sequence in which Jude rallies her fellow patients into a rousing and glamorous rendition of “The Name Game”. It’s unexpected, utterly bonkers, and gloriously camp – it’s everything we love about AHS.
7. Madame Delphine LaLaurie (Kathy Bates): Coven
The despicable racist was known for torturing and murdering countless slaves before voodoo queen Marie Laveau takes revenge and casts an immortality spell on the wicked woman before burying her alive.
Dug out and brought back to modern day, she’s turned into a home servant for Fiona Goode (Lange) and is confronted with the “horrors” of modern society. Namely, that white people aren’t the superior race she believes.
Bates provides a suitably over-the-top performance for the character, bringing out just how despicable, weak, and petty LaLaurie truly is.
6. Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett): Coven
Bassett is an absolute boss in the role as the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans. She’s classy, dynamic, and ruthlessly quick-witted, with one-liners almost as potent as her magic.
As the eternal tormenter of the deplorably racist Delphine LaLaurie, Laveau’s occasional bouts of villainy are understandable even at her most savage. But her willing sacrifice of new born babies to maintain her immortality? Yikes – that’s a tough one to stand by.
5. The Countess (Lady Gaga): Hotel
It isn’t so much the overall character of the vampiric mother of Hotel that has us charmed still. It’s more Gaga’s impenetrable charm in the role that keeps us thinking so fondly of her.
She’s a swaggering seductress with an unquenchable thirst for sex and blood who’s truly mesmerizing in every scene she’s in.
The character perfectly embodies the decadent and destructive hedonism of the season, right down to her Diva attitude as an unstoppable force of nature.
4. Twisty the Clown (John Carroll Lynch): Freak Show / Cult
Do we really need to explain this one? Twisty is scary as sh** and part of some of the most nightmarish scenes of the entire show.
But it isn’t just that he’s a scary ass clown – it’s more the fact that he’s just a human who’s gone horribly wrong.
Particularly when you learn that his backstory involves Twisty being wrongly accused as a child molester and subsequently surviving a suicidal shotgun blast to the head afterwards.
3. Tate Langdon (Evan Peters): Murder House
He’s basically evil incarnate. A ghost who manages to do unspeakably dreadful things to the living without remorse or reason.
However, Peters’s sweet-natured performance makes the character unnervingly endearing, making the final few twists regarding his character all the more brutal.
2. Dandy Mott (Finn Wittrock): Freak Show
The Patrick Bateman of Freak Show is one of the most terrifying creations of the entire show. A maladjusted manchild with a bad sense of aristocratic entitlement, Dandy sees people as playthings and shows no remorse for bloodshed or murder.
It’s easily Wittrock’s finest performance in the show (and possibly in his entire career), providing a powder keg of tantrums that erupt into a bloodlust.
1. Constance Langdon (Jessica Lange): Murder House
Mercilessly cruel and conniving with a penchant for acts of horrific punishment against anyone and everyone, Constance is a villainous treasure played with great grace and delight by Lange.
She’s part Desperate Housewives soapy bitch and part Minnie Castevet (Ruth Gordon) from Rosemary’s Baby, who sees her neighborly duties as a golden opportunity to breed evil.