Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk's FX series American Horror Story has been instrumental in bringing the anthology format to the forefront, making campy, over-the-top horror with dark humor easily accessible as each individual story is contained in a single season. Each season is a macabre mixtape of sexually charged, violent and provocative storytelling, with homages to classic horror films like Tod Browning's Freaks, Rosemary's Baby, The Shining and countless book, music and other pop-culture references.
The first season, Murder House, established the rules for ghosts for the rest of the series. Season 2, Asylum, is a series high mark as far as content and performance and planted the seeds of what would be a shared universe. The campy Coven in Season 3 made us love Miss Jessica Lange even more than we already did. Season 4's Freak Show was visually jarring but had plenty of heart. Season 5's Hotel cemented the shared universe and expanded on the rules set in Season 1, populating the landscape (hotelscape?) with memorable characters. And Season 6's Roanoke was just a major departure from what we were expecting as it spoofed ghost hunter reality shows and documentaries.
We are now footsteps away from the Season 7, Cult, which has so far filled our screens with nightmarish clown and bee imagery. In preparation, I am ranking the very best characters of the first six seasons.
So what made one character better than another? I took into account the story arc for that character, the performance or performances (Roanoke had actors playing re-enactors), great moments and supernatural elements. There's also an undeniable diva factor that applies to American Horror Story, which adds to the characters' lasting appeal.
As a warning, there are numerous spoilers for those not caught up on all six seasons of American Horror Story.
Leigh Emerson, 'Santa' - Season 2 Asylum
Played by: Ian McShane
Classifications: Psychopath, Villain
Best Moment: Sending Christmas nightmares to anyone who watched his story.
Story: If you value your memories of Santa Claus, then I plead to you to avoid watching the Asylum episode guest-starring Ian McShane as a serial murderer dressed in a Santa suit. As Leigh Emerson, McShane portrayed a psychopath who went on a murdering rampage on December 19, 1962. He ended up in Briacliff and was released from solitary after the possessed Sister Mary Eunice caused trouble for everyone else. Emerson helped Sr. Mary Eunice and Dr. Arden frame Sr. Jude for the murder of Frank McCann and nailed the Monsignor to the cross. Eventually, Emerson would escape, leading Lana Winters to consider tackling his story.
Best Line: "What do you saw we blow this pop stand, go savage a few elves and suck on each other?"
Billie Dean Howard – Season 1 Murder House / Season 5 Hotel
Played by: Sarah Paulson
Best Moment: Appearing on Hotel accumulating some fame with her television show but continues to know only so much and underestimates the world she dabbles in.
Story: Billie Dean is one of the earlier characters to clue in the audience directly as to what they were seeing in terms of ghosts and other worldly creatures. Constance found the medium with Lee Press-On Nails on Craigslist. She eventually gets her Lifetime show and appears in Hotel to try to give Liz Taylor some closure on Tristan. Billie Dean goes back to the Cortez in the finale by running TV specials while trying to contact John Lowe on Devil's Night. One day he obliges, and the night eventually leads to March's Murderer's Row and gets in over her head.
Billie's not creepy or scary in any way, but she’s essential in understanding how the Ryan Murphy AHS universe works early on. One must be open to other astral planes and the supernatural. Billie Dean is the first character to spell it out, even to other characters. She also drops the first hints of the Lost Colony of Roanoke and the useless Croatoan banishment spell, which often doesn't work in Season 6.
Best Line: "The dead can hold a grudge better than most Scorpios."
Marcy the real estate agent – Season 1 Murder House / Season 5 Hotel
Played by: Christine Estabrook
Best Moment: Telling the Harmons if they want to sell the house, they need "flutters" to make it sellable.
Story: Marcy is the sad and ruthless gun-in-purse agent who works for L.A. Homes Realty and has to repeatedly try to sell a home that's dubbed the Murder House. She lies and hides much of the house's morbid past and is able to sell it to three different owners: Patrick and Chad Warwick, and the Harmon and Ramos families. In Hotel, she is the real estate agent who transfers ownership of the Hotel Cortez from the Countess Elizabeth to Will Drake.
If you had to find new ways to sell the most depressing listings in Los Angeles, you'd be in a miserable mood all the time too. But there’s no mistaking, Marcy has some great lines.
Best Line: "There are a lot of minority men in this city who would like nothing more than to ravage me on this countertop."
Stanley - Season 4 Freak Show
Played by: Denis O'Hare
Classifications: Villain, Con-Artist
Best Moment: Mutilating Elsa's freaks and selling them off to oddity museums around the world.
Story: Stanley is a con artist who works under false names and faces and gets dirty to make a buck. When he reaches Elsa's freak show, he can't help but see the buffet of freaks who could score him loads of money. He's the cause of many deaths in Season 4 and also puts a nasty context to any museum that would carry oddity items such as the ones featured on Freak Show. Despite not having anything freakish about his appearance, Stanley is one of the most repulsive characters in all of the seasons ... but everyone knows someone just like him. That's why Stanley makes this list.
O'Hare is unsung when it comes to the great recurring cast members of American Horror Story but appearing on this list multiple times is a testament to what he brings to the show. He's a chameleon and has no limits on what he'll do to sell a role. It's always exciting what he does, no matter how vile or horrifying his character may be.
Best Line: "Nobody cares what happens to a freak."
Spalding - Season 3 Coven
Played by: Denis O’Hare
Classifications: Bizarre, Prisoner
Best Moment: Who doesn't love a tea party with dolls?
Story: As the only person to witness how Fiona truly became the Supreme, Spalding is an important but silent character. He wasn't always mute - in fact, Myrtle enchanted his tongue so he must always tell the truth. But before he was to speak in front of the Council, he cut his tongue off so he'd never have to reveal the truth and get Fiona in trouble. He serves Fiona, even when she's out of town, and appears fine being attached to the Supreme as long as he gets to play with his dolls.
There could be an entire season just on whatever the hell it is that Spalding does in his room. It's not natural for a grown man to collect dolls, but to add Madison Montgomery's corpse to his collection and keep her in a trunk made viewers cringe at the thought of what he did with it.
Spalding wasn't supernatural but he looked like a walking corpse. He understood how ghosts worked in this world and befriended the Axeman.
Best Line: "Miss Fiona, I have always loved you."
Charlotte Brown, aka Anne Frank - Season 2 Asylum
Played by: Franka Potente
Best Moment: Planting the seed in the audience's mind that Dr. Arden was a Nazi during World War II.
Story: A woman claims to be Anne Frank and to have been in the concentration camps that Dr. Arden worked at when he was a Nazi. She looks the part and is knowledgeable about the Holocaust, but she also has a family that claims she's named Charlotte Brown and is delusional.
In the end, her suspicions were correct; she also had a picture in her possession of Hitler with a man next to him: a young Arden. So, one could believe she was someone who might have survived the camps, even if she’s not the actual Anne Frank.
Best Line: "Don't you remember me, Doctor? I am Anne. Anne Frank!"
Aileen Wuournos - Season 5 Hotel
Played by: Lily Rabe
Best Moment: Dancing with Richard Ramiez to "Sweet Jane"
Story: A terrible childhood and a sad adult life filled with prostitution paved the way for this notorious serial killer's real-life tragedy. Rabe, who has missed just one season of AHS (Freak Show), delivered the most powerful performance in the two-part Halloween episode. All of the serial killers amongst Mr. March's murderer's row were memorable but you could feel the pain that Wuournos lived with in Rabe's performance and that's why she stands out.
Best Line: Unfortunately, all of Wuournos' best lines would need to be censored.
Madison Montgomery - Season 3 Coven
Played by: Emma Roberts
Classifications: Witch, Diva
Best Moment: When Spalding pulls her out of his doll chest for the first time and accidentally breaks her arm off. Oops.
Story: Madison was the reckless Hollywood socialite that sought safe harbor at Miss Robichaux's Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies. Without any real training, Madison was already discovering her growing power in telekinesis and pyrokinesis. She learned to cast spells and re-animation. The power within her was growing. Fiona saw her as a potential heir to the Supreme throne but also a threat. Her back story was nothing special -- she had a mother who exploited her beauty and fame for riches and hard drugs -- but the former actress got humbled at the coven and was put in her place repeatedly by Fiona until Madison's powers started to amplify and grow.
Early on, Madison was a strong, one-note character, but after she slept with Kyle, who she earlier killed and re-animated for Zoe, things got a little strange. Then, they shared him, and that's when things got awkward. With the help of Misty Day, the Lindsay Lohan of Coven escaped death once, but on her second brush with death, there was no one to help except Spalding.
Best Line: "Where are we going? It's too hot, my friggin' vagina's sweating."
Misty Day - Season 3 Coven
Played by: Lily Rabe
Best Moment: Fainting after meeting her witch hero, Stevie Nicks.
Story: When the religious locals labeled her a necromancer and burned her at the stake, Misty Day managed to resurrect herself. Her apparent death invoked fear amongst the witch community that they'll be hunted down again. This bohemian witch retreated to the swamps of the bayou to meditate, heal animals and listen to Stevie Nicks and Fleetwood Mac music until Madison and Zoe resurrect Kyle. She offers to heal Kyle with her concocted healing mud. She continues to bump into various members of Fiona's coven, helping to bring a number of them back from the dead ... including Myrtle Snow, who eventually invites her to take the Seven Wonders test to see if she's the next Supreme.
Misty was killed three times, resurrected three people and herself, healed Kyle, and brought back countless swamp animals. Her healing powers and mastering of resurgence made her a serious contender for Supreme but her lack of desire to actually be the top dog was a refreshing contrast to the witches' bickering. Misty was the anti-b***h witch. Unlike the other witches who were looking for selfish gain, her big-hearted concern for strangers made her endearing to viewers. While she didn't end up the Supreme, she didn't come to a bad end and ultimately ended up in Cordelia's coven.
Best Line: "Can I say something? I don't want to be the Supreme."
Pepper - Season 2 Asylum / Season 4 Freak Show
Played by: Naomi Grossman
Best Moment: Being abducted by aliens and coming back with genius intelligence.
Story: Originally a clown act with her former husband, Salty, until he passed away, Pepper was transferred to the care of her sister, Rita Gayheart, who mistreated her and sent off to Briarcliff after she framed Pepper for the murder of her unwanted deformed child. Her story is heartbreaking.
Best Line: "He took one look at the shape of my head and I was locked up for good. That's how it works with us freaks. We get blamed for everything …"
Shachath, the Angel of Death - Season 2 Asylum
Played by: Frances Conroy
Classifications: Angel of Death, Grim Reaper
Best Moment: After hallucinating an attempted suicide, Shachath appears to Sister Jude prior to her stint at Briarcliff. In a diner, Sr. Jude admits to being a drunken whore and a murderer, but the angel tells her that God has a plan for her and it's not her turn yet.
Story: Shachath kisses a person right before they die. As she dips down to complete the kiss of death, two large black wings unfold from her back as she takes the last breath of air from those that call her.
Shachath is one of the more beautiful interpretations of death I've seen. Although her appearance signals the death of a character, there is something quite comforting knowing that she is taking the character away for their final rest. Though there have been other characters like Shachath –- like Edward Mordrake –- I wish we'd see the angel of death more in other seasons.
Best Line: When she kisses Sr. Mary Eunice, who is possessed by the Devil, she says, "I'll take you both."
Miss Hazel Evers - Season 5 Hotel
Played by: Mare Winningham
Classifications: Ghost, Prisoner
Best Moment: When she bonds with John Lowe over losing her child as she tells her sordid tale. She becomes something more than March's minion.
Story: Poor Miss Evers has spend a lifetime and eternity cleaning out the blood from the bedsheets at the Cortez. She used to be the servant of James March and continues to perform her duties when the Countess takes over. Miss Evers is devoted to March and even sacrificed herself to save him from being arrested.
Evers proves to have a tragic background as, prior to meeting March, she lost her only son on Halloween while trick-or-treating. He was kidnapped by Gordon Northcott, the Wineville Chicken Coop Murderer.
Best Line: "What a glorious stain!"
Queenie - Season 3 Coven / Season 5 Hotel
Played by: Gabourey Sidibe
Classifications: Witch, Diva
Best Moment: Trying to bridge the cultural gap with the head of Madame Delphine LaLaurie, Queen confines her to tabletop and forces her to watch Roots. Also, fighting off Ramona Royale in her room at the Hotel Cortez could've gone on for days if it hadn't been for James March.
Story: Using the powers of Voodoo, Queenie can turn her body into a human voodoo doll, committing self-inflicted acts of violence and transferring the pain and wounds to someone else. Queenie is also a descendant of Tituba, an integral figure who started the Salem witch trials. All Queenie ever wanted was to feel a sense of belonging. A product of the foster care system, Queenie found herself at Miss Robichaux's Academy for witches after she was let go from her job at a fast food restaurant. She wound up there after iinflicting pain on a customer who thought they could use her as a victim of a scam to get extra food. Cordelia Foxx rescued her, and later she was lured away by Marie Laveau, who wanted to become her mentor. She staves off an attack on Cornrow City when Hank tries to shoot it up and uses her power to transfer the result of a gunshot to her head onto him. She later appears in Hotel, after scoring a ticket to The Price is Right, where she finally meets her match.
Best Line: "Madison Montgomery is a stone-cold b***h, who loves hard drinking, big d***s and trouble. If she's dead, it’s probably because she got wasted and offered the Grim Reaper a h****** or something."
Young and Old Moira O'Hara – Season 1 Murder House
Played by: Alexandra Breckinridge and Frances Conroy
Classifications: Anti-Hero, Prisoner, Ghost
Best Moment: Trying to seduce a potential buyer for the Murder House, Moira pleasures rental property mogul Joe Escandarian with the hopes he’ll gut the house and dig up the backyard and get the authorities to connect Constance's role in her death.
Story: Moira was one of the best supernatural creatures of AHS; she would appear as an later-aged woman (Conroy) to fellow women, but -- in a nod to The Shining -- men saw what they wanted to see in her: a young sexy object of desire in a French maid outfit (Breckenridge). Constance interrupted a short-lived affair between her husband and Moira, shooting them both in the master bedroom. She then buried the bodies in separate spots in the back yard. Unsettled ghosts can never leave their place of death, so the spirit of Moira continues to clean the Murder House for its subsequent owners.
Moira in both forms is one of the few truly sympathetic characters in Season 1. Her story was full of sadness, including leaving the house on Halloween (when spirits can roam freely) to visit her mother lying on her death bed. She goaded men to make bad decisions with her, but it was her verbal jousts with Constance that won her fans.
Best Line: Vivien: "Don’t you ever get tired of cleaning up other people's messes?" Old Moira: "We’re women, it's what we do. I just get paid for it."
Chad Warwick – Season 1 Murder House
Played by: Zach Quinto
Classifications: Prisoner, Diva, Ghost
Best Moment: Decorating the Murder House for Halloween and staging two skeletons sodomizing each other on the front lawn.
Story: Chad was one of the victims of Rubber Man but more tragically was the prisoner of a loveless marriage. In an attempt to spice the bedroom up with some kinky fetish gear, Chad mistakingly bought a rubber suit instead of leather. Tate’s ghost eventually got a hold of the suit and took out his rage on Chad and Patrick because they fought so much instead of harmoniously finding ways to get a child into the house, forever imprisoning them both in the Murder House.
As one of the ghosts of the Murder House, Chad is still stuck in his life in the living. He still believes the house is his and only when he schemes at taking Vivien's children does he realize how to utilize his supernatural powers for personal gain. He was especially strategic in wanting to wait until the baby was 18 months old so that, when he killed the baby, it'd be forever cute.
Best Line: "The first impression that anyone is going to have before they experience my meticulously appointed candy station is of you going to the front door in that Rite Aid witch outfit. Ugh. But never fear, Count Chocula's here to add some real class."
Dr. Charles Montgomery - Season 1 Murder House / Season 5 Hotel
Played by: Matt Ross
Classifications: Psychopath, Mad Doctor
Best Moment: Revealing the resurrection of his son as the infantata.
Story: Charles and his wife Nora were the original owners of the Murder House, where he was a surgeon to the stars. An addiction to ether and a failing practice soon led to the desperate turn of business of performing illegal abortions.
One day, a boyfriend of one of his patients sought revenge for his work and stole the Montgomery's newborn infant and dismembered it before sending it to the authorities. Nora never forgave Charles, who worked tirelessly to put his son back together and use the heart of an aborted fetus to give it life again. Horrified at what he did, Nora murdered him before turning the gun on herself.
The remnants of his laboratory were seen in the opening credits and that's all anyone needed to really know about the insidious acts that went on in the basement of the Murder House. From things kept in jars to trying to sew his dead infant back together, everything about Charles was frightening.
Charles lived on as a ghost but did not haunt the subsequent owners very much, but he did help to deliver the children of Vivien Harmon. We’d later see Dr. Montgomery at the Hotel Cortez in a flashback to 1926 to give Elizabeth an abortion but was attacked by the baby, that would eventually occupy Room 33.
Best Line: "I finally succeeded at something."
Adelaide 'Addie' Langdon - Season 1 Murder House
Played by: Jamie Brewer
Best Moment: Telling Violet Harmon she's not a virgin.
Story: One of the true horrors of AHS is being the child of Constance Langdon. If there were any poor souls who lived a tortured life under constant verbal abuse, it was little Addie Langdon, who was born with Down Syndrome and dreamed of becoming a "pretty girl."
Addie is the first of three roles that Brewer has played in American Horror Story, but even though she had a lengthier run in Coven, there was so much life, love and tragedy in Addie. Murphy put her in some difficult positions but you could tell that Addie was written with great ambition to show more sides than her condition. Jessica Lange and Evan Peters both had a great screen partner in Brewer and are a big reason why all the Langdons ended up on the list.
Best Line: "You're going to die in here."
Hayden McClaine – Season 1 Murder House
Played by: Kate Mara
Classifications: Psychopath, Diva, Ghost, Antagonist
Best Moment: After being killed and buried in the back yard by Larry, Hayden first shows up as a ghost at the door ... and we know she's going to make Ben squirm even more.
Story: Hayden plays Ben Harmon's emotionally unstable student who he has an affair with and gets pregnant. Ben flies back to Boston to see her to get her through an abortion, but she decides to keep the baby and goes to Los Angeles to use her pregnancy as a way to rip him away from his family. Larry bails Ben out by killing her at the Murder House ... and that's when things get interesting.
Hayden had one goal, and that was to be with Ben no matter the cost. If it meant killing Vivien or Ben to do it, that's where she was willing to go. Hayden also enlisted the help of other ghosts in the house to get her way, including conspiring with Nora Montgomery to steal Vivien's babies by killing them.
Hayden is driven by her obsession and that makes her a first-class diva. She's a bit one-dimensional, but when she became a ghost, she was one of the few who reveled in her new abilities and wanted to see what she can do. That's what makes her such a great ghost: she doesn't wallow in what she used to be bur rather tries to use her new abilities to make Ben and Vivien’s life a living hell the instant she understood what was going on.
Best Line: "Why does being dead make me so horny?"
Myrtle Snow - Season 3 Coven
Played by: Frances Conroy
Classifications: Witch, Diva
Best Moment: I’m torn between Myrtle taking the melon baller to the eyes of her co-workers, Cecily and Quentin, or playing the most annoying instrument – the theremin.
Story: With a love for haute couture and Miss Robichaux's Academy for Execptional Young Ladies, Myrtle Snow was a fan favorite for her verbal quips, sophistication and brutal honesty. Myrtle was one of the few witches to live up to the title as she showed more than one ability: she enchants Spalding to keep him from ever lying, gets Cordelia her eyesight back, uses telekinetic powers and is resurrected by Misty Day the first time she is burned at the stake.
Myrtle became Head of the Witches Council and forever Fiona's rival. As a nod to their verbal jabs in Season 1, Conroy and Lange brought out the cat claws again in Coven. Fiona was the Supreme and was a worthy in that role, but Myrtle had all of the memorable lines, dropping names and jokes from the fashion world while dressed in expensive couture outfits. If the diva scale along could determine her ranking, Myrtle Snow would reign supreme.
Best Line: Screaming "Balenciaga!" as she burned at the stake.
Marie Laveau - Season 3 Coven
Played by: Angela Bassett
Classifications: Witch, Diva
Best Moment: The confrontation and conversation Marie has with Fiona in her hair shop.
Story: Born in 1794, Marie Laveau would eventually become the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans. When her boyfriend was captured and tortured by Madame Delphine LaLaurie, Marie sought revenge by hanging LaLaurie's daughters and husband in front of her house. Then she poisoned LaLaurie with a potion that would grant her immortality and then buried her alive for eternity. She keeps a low profile until Fiona Goode needles her for ways to obtain eternal life and signals her of LaLaurie's unearthing. Every year she has to sacrifice an innocent soul to Papa Legba to be granted immortality. Some of the other abilities she possessed included necromancy, mind control, telekinesis and voodoo pinning. If you had to steal a newborn baby every year to keep your immortality, would you do it?
Laveau was one of the many real-life characters fictionalized in AHS, which brought even more interest beyond the show's exploits. Few characters had as much gravitas as her.
Best Line: "That ain't magic, it's an antihistamine! And the only thing I'm allergic to is you! Damn you!"
Edward Mordrake - Season 4 Freak Show
Played by: Wes Bentley
Classifications: Freak, Grim Reaper, Ghost
Best Moment: Coming to Twisty the Clown just as he was going to make Jimmy Darling his next victim and getting him to share his story.
Story: Edward was a 19th century nobleman who was born with a second face on the back of his head. It was apparently a conjoined twin that never separated and there are varying sources on whether or not he really existed, though he does have an entry in the 1896 edition of the medical encyclopedia Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine. Mordrake is a ghost, a grim reaper for the freak community and, by the rules that are established in Season 1, is free to roam on Halloween.
His purpose of being at the freak show is a supernatural phenomenon unto itself, but Mordrake's own history of having a second face on the back of his head, which he repeatedly tried to kill because it spoke to him and drove him insane, makes him one of the coolest characters in the AHS universe. The unkempt lamb chop facial hair – not a big fan. The second face grinning and scowling – ghastly. That it would be whispering devilish things to him throughout the day and keep him up at night –extremely annoying! Still, the whole package is kind of oddly adorable.
Best Line: "It is not your talent that renders me speechless. It is your delusional ignorance."
Dandy Mott - Season 4 Freak Show
Played by: Finn Wittrock
Classifications: Psychopath, Villain, Diva
Best Moment: When he attached the Avon Lady's head to the corpse of his mother to make a life-sized puppet of Bette and Dot.
Story: Dandy is the result of inbreeding between his mother and her second cousin and being spoiled rotten in aristocracy. Dandy's boredom at home coincides with the arrival of Elsa's Cabinet of Curiosities freak show. There, he is introduced to conjoined twins Bette and Dot, who he falls for. He identifies with freaks, but also Twisty the Clown, who triggers his hunger to take lives. Dandy starts to develop a god complex at the same time he is rejected by Bette and Dot and blames Jimmy for his troubles. After murdering his mother, the maid and her daughter, he goes on a killing spree before buying the freak show from Elsa, after which the freaks eventually turn on him.
On the list of psychopaths, Dandy Mott is an original. Truthfully, I don't believe there's a character in all of the seasons that was as remorseless as Dandy. It's hard to feel a connection with a character that is so destructive and yet he is the biggest freak of Freak Show.
Best Line: "I want to be a thespian, but you keep ruining it!"
James Patrick March – Season 5 Hotel
Played by: Evan Peters
Classifications: Psychopath, Villain
Best Moment: Iris' history lesson is filled with enough death for an entire season. It included the demise of himself, March and his loyal maid, Miss Evers.
Story: March is the darkest character that Evan Peters has played so far (which says a lot) and one of the most nihilistic, unforgiving villains of the series. As the creator of the Hotel Cortez, March used his power and fortune to create an elaborate torture castle, equipped with hidden rooms for torture and body disposal -- everything set to serve his appetite for death. Unfortunately, his grand opus was interrupted when his sloppiness led to the police surprising him at his hotel. He had a total disregard for human life and the fact that he can continue killing as a ghost makes us wonder how many bodies he's piled up over the years. He's not religious and we eventually find out that he was once married to Countess Elizabeth. March was dangerous alive, but he's just as wild and bloodthirsty as a ghost.
Like many other characters listed here, March was inspired by a real person: insurance scam artist/physician Doctor Henry Howard Holmes, (among aliases H.H. Holmes, Herman Mudgett, Henry Gordon and Alexander Bond). Holmes built a three-story hotel in Chicago in time for the 1893 World's Fair, which served as his death complex, complete with trapdoors, steel walls for burning people, soundproof rooms with gas lines, amongst other ways to murder people.
Best Line: "I'm not familiar with your military friend and his fondness for poultry, but my killing days are over."
Susan Berger as Thomasin 'The Butcher' White - Season 6 Roanoke
Played by: Kathy Bates as Susan Berger, who plays Thomasin on the My Roanoke Nightmare re-enactments
Classifications: Ghost, Villain, Psychopath
Best Moment: When she comes back to seek revenge on those who banished her.
Story: The leader of the Roanoke Colony, Thomasin White, aka The Butcher, was married to John White, the governor of Roanoke. She was left in charge when her husband left on a supply run and was urged by the colony to move inland. When she refused, Thomasin was banished and left to starve to death ... and that's where she runs into the original Supreme Witch Scáthach, who empowers her with Telekinesis, Pyrokinesis and Transmutation after she sells her soul.
Thomasin comes back to claim her colony with a vengeance and swears allegiance to Scáthach and pledges sacrifices to her every year on the Blood-Moon period of October. She patrols the sacred grounds of her people by killing anyone who dares to set foot on Roanoke.
Bates is so good as the antagonist and Murphy wisely let her be the main threat once again. She's ruthless, demonic and got to deliver lines like the one below ...
Best Line: "I am the queen of every hive. I am the fire on every hill. I am the shield over every head. I am the spear of battle. I am both the tree and the lightning that strikes it."
Dr. Arthur Arden, aka Dr. Hans Gruper – Season 2 Asylum / Season 4 Freak Show
Played by: James Cromwell / John Cromwell
Classifications: Villain, Mad Doctor
Best Moment: Dr. Arden toyed with Sister Mary Eunice's innocence, but when she became possessed and she gave into those temptations, he was conflicted. He wanted her to be pure. Saddened by her eventual death, he climbs into the cremator with her, burning himself alive.
Story: As one of the most devilish characters of AHS, Dr. Arden is hard to top. He was a Nazi war criminal as Hans Gruper and butted heads with Sister Jude. How he came to Briarcliff is unknown but, as one of the heads of the Asylum and renamed Arthur Arden, he experimented on inmates no one bothered with. If one of them acted out, he would punish them by strapping them onto his surgical table, where he injected them with a variety of diseases and disfigured them with saws and other surgical tools. He claimed to be working on the next phase of human evolution, but his actions went unchecked. Arden is hands-down the King of Creep.
Arden's profile got a boost of interest recently when it was revealed in Freak Show he was the monster who amputated Elsa’s legs in the infamous snuff film.
Best Line: "Show me your mossy bank!"
Ramona Royale - Season 5 Hotel
Played by: Angela Bassett
Classifications: Vampire, Actor
Best Moment: Seeing Ramona in her blaxsploitation films
Story: Basset has done some pretty terrific things on American Horror Story but Ramona belongs with the best. As one of the Countess' lovers, Ramona had a great introduction living it up beside Elizabeth and eventually being made into a vampire. When Ramona wanted to be something more and become her own person and take up a new life with a new lover, Elizabeth's jealousy ran wild.
Ramona used her powers to try to save her father from Alzheimers, but it didn't work ... and she was forced to end his life after finding out he killed two intruders. Ramona vowed revenge against the Countess after Donovan tried to kill her after being dumped by the Countess himself.
Through Ramona, Bassett got to dress in '70s glam, play a vampire, recite wicked dialogue and do a mean Pam Grier impression. She does come off as a one-note character at the beginning but she continues to grow and evolve by season's end.
Best Line: "I'm a creature who kills to live and who drinks a body's worth of blood a day and doesn't think twice about who I'm sucking it from. So If you even let out a whisper of a word that sounds like Cortez, I'll find you and drain every drop of your skinny ass."
Elizabeth / The Countess – Season 5 Hotel
Played by: Lady Gaga
Classifications: Vampire, Diva
Best Moment: When it's revealed that her first love was Italian-American actor Rudolph Valentino.
Story: Elizabeth Johnson is a 112-year old creature who feeds on sex and blood. She's the first vampire portrayed on AHS and well connected with many characters of previous seasons. Her first relationship was a polyamorous one with actor Rudolph Valentino and his wife Natacha Rambova, but upon hearing of his death, Elizabeth nearly committed suicide at the opening of the Hotel Cortez, where James Patrick March saved her and married her. There was no love between the two but she acquired wealth and power. Valentino winds up being alive as a result of vampirism and afflicts Elizabeth, but March steps in and ensures the lovers wouldn't reunite. She bumped into Dr. Charles Montgomery at the Murder House, hoping to get an abortion ... but her spawn wouldn't go down without a fight and thus Bartholomew was born. Elizabeth would later have a passionate relationship with Ramona Royale and many others, most of whom she eventually discards.
Lady Gaga embodied the decadence of Season 5, where fashion and style took center stage. This was the first time she had a serious role and she ended up carrying the season as well as Sarah Paulson, Kathy Bates and Jessica Lange had in seasons past.
Some of the basis for Elizabeth comes from Elizabeth Báthory, a wealthy 16th century Hungarian countess who was also the most prolific serial killer in history, reportedly killing hundreds (650 was cited in a trial) of servants under the guise that their blood would grant her youth.
Best Line: "You have a jawline for days."
Dr. Oliver Thredson / Bloody Face – Season 2 Asylum
Played by: Zachary Quinto
Classifications: Villain, Psychopath, Mad Doctor
Best Moment: Thredson squares off with Lana Winters, who was waiting for him with gun in hand. In an intense confrontation that included Thredson detailing what he did with Lana’s girlfriend's corpse, Winters finally gets her revenge.
Story: Thredson first appeared at the Briarcliff asylum to diagnose Kit Walker as guilty and insane of the suspected Bloody Face murders. Later, he treated Lana Winters when she snuck into the asylum undercover and agreed to help her get out if she agreed to be treated for his conversion therapy for homosexuality. Lana entrusted him to get her back home but later discovered that he's the serial murderer Bloody Face. Thredson held Winters captive and sexually abused her until she escaped, only to land in Briarcliff again.
What really put Thredson over the edge was him detailing what he made the Bloody Face mask out of, which made every vile act and murder with it a terrifying experience both for the victims and viewers. However, Thredson's hubris would eventually spell his doom as he underestimated Winters again and again.
Best Line: "Can I tell you a secret? Nutmeg makes all the difference in the world."
Sister Jude Martin - Season 2 Asylum
Played by: Jessica Lange
Classifications: Anti-Hero, Prisoner
Best Moment: Leading the Name Game dance routine in a drug-induced hallucination.
Story: Born Judy Martin, this nun brought herself to serve God after she believed her drunken driving killed a young woman. At Briarcliff, she ran a strict regime with punishment as the first solution ... and more punishment as the alternative. On top of her duties as the head nun, she was embroiled in a power struggle with Dr. Arden for control of the asylum and was sexually drawn to her superior, Monsignor Timothy Howard (Joseph Fiennes), but when she needed him to help her at her time of need, he turned his back on her. Sr. Jude was framed for the murder of a security guard and, in an ironic turn, was committed to Briarcliff, where she is left to rot by the Monsignor. She accepts her sentence as atonement for her part in the all of the wrongdoings at the asylum.
Luckily, Kit Walker made sure that she was not forgotten and eventually brought her into his home, where he cared for her in her last years before she embraced Shachath's death kiss once and for all.
Sr. Jude starts out as an antagonist and powerful force of resistance, then suddenly becomes one of the characters that viewers want to champion. She might have been stern and cold at the beginning but after her history is spilled, it's easy to sympathize and hope for a happy ending finds Sr. Jude. Her arc of forgiveness and redemption takes the entire season to unfold and when Kit takes her home to live out her final years, there's a beautiful nurturing twist.
Best Line: "You're out of your depth, Miss Lana Banana."
Hypodermic Sally – Season 5 Hotel
Played by: Sarah Paulson
Classifications: Psychopath, Ghost, Antagonist
Best Moment: Helping Iris commit suicide.
Story: Sally died at the Hotel Cortez when she was pushed out a window, falling dozens of stories to her death. She was pushed out by Iris, whose son Donovan was shooting heroin with Sally. Sally's first appearance is where the rules of Murder House come alive. You didn't quite know if she was dead or alive when we first meet her, but when her tale of death is shown at the end of the first episode, you knew her soul was imprisoned at the Hotel Cortez and she was the type who would make everyone else's stay just as miserable. Now, she wanders the Cortez looking to hear other people's sad stories so she can feel alive again. Irritable and a complete wild card, Sally acts as a free agent, only looking for the next score, the next high and to be entertained by detailed stories of sorrow and regret.
Once Liz and Iris take over the Cortez, they do their best to hook Sally up ... to the Internet and save her with social networking so that she can connect with people despite being tethered to the hotel.
Best Line: "Kids are the best!"
Twisty the Clown – Season 4 Freak Show
Played by: John Carroll Lynch
Classifications: Freak, Villain
Best Moment: There are so many frightening scenes with Twisty but the image of him circling round on the carousel at night by himself is forever a permanent part of my nightmares.
Story: Oftentimes, Ryan Murphy's characters are introduced as one-note but usually end up revealing a deeper, more relatable connection to the audience. It took until the Halloween two-parter with Edward Mordrake to really understand the Twisty character, but that's exactly what happened when his sordid past of being wrongly accused as a child molester and his failed suicide came to light. Sometimes there's nothing more frightening than a human, especially when it lives in a clown suit and wears a hat made of the scalps of his victims. Twisty survived a shotgun blast to the head. But once Edward Mordrake chooses him to be part of his freak show, that gave him a new sense of belonging and purpose.
Lynch delivered on a compelling performance. Unable to use his mouth for most of the time, he did so much with his body and his eyes to give Twisty a menacing and terrifying presence. When it was revealed what his mouth looked like under the mask, all bets were off: Twisty was in a class by himself.
And that bus. Who can forget that bus?
Best Line: "I'm a good clown!"
Lee Harris – Season 6 Roanoke
Played by: Adina Porter, and Angela Bassett as Monet Tumusiime playing Lee Harris
Classifications: Anti-Hero, Hero, Prisoner
Best Moment: Suddenly appears on the reality show Spirit Chasers and goes off on the hosts as they try to film on the Roanoke house during the Blood Moon.
Story: Surprisingly comes out of the Roanoke season as the main character after starting out supporting the lead couple Matt and Shelby Miller as Matt's sister. Lee is a former cop and skeptical of the experiences at the house until she can't escape the nightmare either. A recovering prescription drug addict, Lee brings her daughter Flora to the Roanoke house, where the child is abducted. Lee's ex-husband tried to take Flora back with him and winds up being murdered. Lee is questioned by police while Matt and Shelby locate Flora and keep her alive. Once Lee returns to the house, so starts her story of survival and torture with the Roanoke Colony and the Polks.
Lee's really tough to like in the first half of the season when she's mostly a one-note character but Porter makes her much more human in the season's final episodes. She shares a lot of the same traits as Lana Winters, so that surviving instinct grows on you with each obstacle she hurdles over.
Interesting tidbit: Lee Miller is an actual person who was obsessed with finding out what happened to the disappearance of the Roanoke Colony of 1587. She wrote the book Roanoke: Mystery of the Lost Colony and Roanoke: Solving the Mystery of the Lost Colony.
Best Line: "My brother married one jumpy b****."
Kit Walker - Season 2 Asylum
Played by: Evan Peters
Best Moment: Kit saves Sr. Jude from Briarcliff and nurses her at his home until she passes.
Story: Kit walked through the doors of Briarcliff Asylum when he was accused of being the "Bloody Face" serial killer. Despite his pleas of innocence, he was subjected to Dr. Arden's experiments and is found to have an implant in his neck. He is bounced back and forth between Dr. Thredson and Arden, who thinks he's a KGB spy ... but Kit and his wife are victims of alien abduction! Kit helps everyone in the asylum, including Lana and Grace.
Kit eventually gets out of Briarcliff and is reunited with both Grace and his wife Alma, where they try to live a life together ... but it's not so simple.
Walker is easily Peters' most likable character in all of the seasons of AHS, but it's his act of kindness towards Sr. Jude at the end of Season 2 that earns him a top spot in our rankings.
Best Line: "There is no God. Not a God who would create the things I saw."
Liz Taylor - Season 5 Hotel
Played by: Denis O’Hare
Classifications: Diva, Hero
Best Moment: After serving the Countess for most of his life, Liz bravely goes for who she wanted, but when the Countess takes that away, Liz gets her revenge. Also, the reunion she has with her son is an example of where this show can tug at your heart strings.
Story: Liz was a loyal servant to the Countess after she allowed her to finally get into clothes that suited her and embraced who she was under that skin. (O’Hare actually reminds us of Liz Taylor and all of her movie roles, a testament to his performance.) Liz left his family to work at the Cortez but was never turned into a vampire. After finding true love in Tristan, the Countess took that away from him and he resented her for it. When the Countess met her end, Taylor was reinvigorated to find new purpose and together with Iris made the Cortez buzz with life again. He made right with the ghosts and created a family, one he was willing to stay with, even when he contracted cancer.
Best Line: "Just teaching the folks from Vogue how to vogue. I couldn't resist."
Constance Langdon – Season 1 Murder House
Played by: Jessica Lange
Classifications: Antagonist, Diva
Best Moment: There are too many noteworthy conflicts and soliloquies to list. However, the first time she meets the Harmons is filled with electricity in both verbal and non-verbal communication.
Story: Constance is a TV treasure. From her politically incorrect mouth to her backhanded compliments, she was an endless source of memorable moments. She moved to Los Angeles to chase the dream, but it never happened. She had four children, but we only meet three: Adelaide, who has Down Syndrome; Beauregard, who had craniodiaphyseal dysplasia; and Tate, who she regarded as her perfect child. She caught her husband sleeping with the maid Moira and murdered them both. She later moved next door and carried on an affair with the next owner of the Murder House, Larry Harvey. Constance understands how the house works and the ghosts that haunt it, which is why she remains next door so she can visit them whenever she pleases.
Constance also did truly wretched things. She would have her child spit in baked goods intended for others. She manipulated others for her selfish gain. Other times she says things that should get her children taken away from her. She is arguably the worst mother on television, having one of her children killed, raised a school shooter psychopath and treated another like a monster to her face. That she would reinforce the idea that her daughter is unfit for the public world and lock her in a "bad girl closet" full of mirrors as punishment made Constance as vile as any of the previous owners of the Murder House.
Ultimately, Constance steals Vivien's child (who is her grandson and is also the Antichrist) after Ben dies, only to find out years later that Tate's psychotic genes have been passed on to another.
Best Line: "Can you ferret out the fairies for us?"
Tate Langdon – Season 1 Murder House
Played by: Evan Peters
Classifications: Villain, Psychopath
Best Moment: When he was revealed to be Rubber Man and the man who raped Vivien Harmon.
Story: Season 1 firestarter and evil incarnate who befriends and falls in love with Violet Harmon. This Kurt Cobain look-alike went on a mass shooting spree at his high school, which eventually led to his own death in the Murder House. Tate wound up being a ghost but did some astounding things, including impregnating Vivien and, on Halloween, leaving the Murder House to take Violet on a date. He helps establish the rules and abilities for ghosts in all of the seasons of American Horror Story. The Halloween episode also laid the foundation of how ghosts work, and their ability to roam around before being tethered back to their imprisoned place at midnight.
Peters' performance deserved all the high praise and was a powder keg the entire season. He twisted the guts of viewers as he proved to be both noble and despicable, valiant but unaccountable and yet he never does ever explain why he did what he did.
Best Line: "Screw high school, that's a blip in your timeline. Don't get stuck there."
Sister Mary Eunice McKee - Season 2 Asylum
Played by: Lily Rabe
Best Moment: Once possessed, Sr. Mary Eunice gives into Dr. Arden's advances, who is suddenly repulsed at the idea of her doing so ... and thus begins his descent into madness.
Story: Sr. Mary Eunice McKee is the other prominent nun at Briarcliff, helping Dr. Arden with any needs, no matter the request. Her innocence piques Arden's desires, but her fragile state of mind is the result of being the victim of a skinny-dipping prank as a teenager. Sr. Mary Eunice also feared and desired the harsh cruelty and discipline of Sr. Jude. To say she was nothing before she was possessed is not giving any credit to the character. That someone who'd led as pure and innocent a life as her and would be stuck working at Briarcliff was an interesting juxtaposition. After she became demonized, though, she not only fit in - she surpassed the evil that was surrounding her.
During the exorcism of possessed inmate Jed Potter, Sr. Mary Eunice was the next victim of the Devil's spirit. Once under the control of the Devil, a different Sr. Mary Eunice took hold of the asylum and she was a constant thorn in Sr. Jude's side until her mischievous acts gets Sr. Jude committed.
Rabe was a scene-stealer in the best way. To see how she reacted when she was her true, innocent self and that contrasted with the demon she became when she was possessed was incredible. She dared Dr. Arden to take a bite of her apple and ultimately raped the Monsignor.
Best Line: "We are all going to be together in the dark watching The Sign of the Cross. A movie filled with fire, sex and the death of Christians – what fun!"
Fiona Goode - Season 3 Coven
Played by: Jessica Lange
Classifications: Supreme Witch, Diva
Best Moment: After the Axeman slaughters most of the Delphi Trust witch hunters, he hands Fiona his axe and she finishes off the head of the hunters, Harrison Renard.
Story: She was the Supreme for 45 years and was fabulous at doing so. She's off the charts reckless as far as witches go, ashamed of the stereotypes that have driven the public perception of her kind, and she strived for power, greatness, respect, and was fearless. Absolutely ruthless, Fiona got whatever she wanted. She sucked the life force of those who upset her, and if there was a threat to her kind, she wiped them out.
Fiona also opposed racists and tortured Madame Delphine LaLaurie to no end. She belittled others in cruel manner and humiliated others for her amusement. Lange had fun playing this role, and you could tell.
After living the high life, Fiona comes back to the school that made her and tries to repair her relationship with her daughter, Cordelia. Instead, she tries to take over her daughter's work to get closer to the new students, hoping to absorb their powers.
Once diagnosed with cancer, Fiona begins to give up on life until she meets the psychopath Axeman and begins a murderous love affair with him. Together, they made for a power couple bathed in blood.
Best Line: "Don't make me drop a house on you."
Madame Delphine LaLaurie - Season 3 Coven
Played by: Kathy Bates
Classifications: Villain, Diva, Psychopath
Best Moment: After a close-up of President Obama on the television, the camera pulls back to reveal Madame LaLaurie crying.
Story: Would you believe that the Madame was based on a real person who performed unspeakable acts on slaves in the attic of her home during the turn of the 19th century? In AHS, LaLaurie was a known Louisiana socialite who also tortured and murdered countless slaves for her sick enjoyment during the early 1800s. She picked on the wrong slave one day and became the target of voodoo witch queen Marie Laveau, who cast an immortality spell on her before burying her alive, never to be unearthed, until Fiona Goode did so looking for the secret of eternal life. Fiona takes her in, racist remarks and all, to make her the servant at her coven. There, she is belittled, ridiculed and confronted with all of the changes in society since she was put in the ground.
Best Line: "I don't care what kind of monster anybody says I am. I loved my girls ... in my own way. Even the ugly one."
Lana 'Banana' Winters - Season 2 Asylum / Season 6 Roanoke
Played by: Sarah Paulson
Classifications: Anti-Hero, Prisoner, Diva
Best Moment: After escaping Briarcliff with Dr. Oliver Thredson and getting comfortable in his home, Lana figures out that he's Bloody Face.
Story: Asylum starts out with Lana wanting to be a star journalist and get the drop on Bloody Face, a serial killer in the area. The second time Lana visits Briarcliff, she goes undercover when Kit Walker is brought into custody of the asylum as a main suspect for the Bloody Face murders. Snooping around on Briarcliff's grounds, she gains entry through the tunnel and is eventually knocked unconscious. When she awakes, Sister Jude has her confined to a bed with a statement signed by her girlfriend and a judge to keep her under Briarcliff's care. She pleads for someone to hear her case, though her protests only lead to electroshock therapy. Dr. Thredson takes her case ... on the condition she undergo conversion therapy for her homosexuality.
Lana was put into numerous horrific situations, like being raped by Bloody Face, getting electroshock therapy, seeing the aftermath of her lover killed and tortured, and coming face-to-face with her bastard child, who is carrying on his father's legacy as an adult. As Lana helped expose what went down at Briarcliff, her inner diva came out as she took down Cardinal Howard and the crimes that Dr. Arden performed. She even made a documentary, Briarcliff Exposed, to show the public the atrocities and the inhumane conditions at the asylum. Then, at age 75, after being interviewed, she is confronted by her son, who is there to kill her, but she, instead, is ready for him.
Lana easily has the best story of any AHS character and Paulson, amidst equally deserving performances by Lily Rabe and Jessica Lange, just owns this season. Lana would appear one more time in the Roanoke finale, coming out of retirement to interview the "real" Lee Harris about her torture and criminal trial.
Best Line: "All I can say is, read my book."
So that's my list, do you agree? Who are your favorite characters and why? What characters from the new season Cult have you talking? Feel free to discuss below.