Outside of flashbacks and dropped plotlines, American Horror Story is probably best known for its characters. Engaging, disturbing, and heartbreaking, these characters spread across seven seasons of Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk's horror anthology series and regularly do everything in their power to hurt each other.
The upcoming eighth season, American Horror Story: Apocalypse, will be a mashup of the series' two most popular seasons, Murder House (Season 1) and Coven (Season 3), and bring those season's favorite characters to the forefront once again. Like a fanfiction come to fruition, Apocalypse is bound to feature some incredibly meta character moments. In honor of this fandom dream come true, we thought we'd rank our favorites (some of which will appear again in Apocalypse).
We'd apologize for so much of this list consisting of Jessica Lange characters, but we're not sorry. Lange is the queen of American Horror Story, a pillar of the series whose absence is sorely felt when she's not grinning sadistically out of your television. Other series mainstays include Sarah Paulson and Evan Peters, both of whom have a place (or two) on this list, because they are also awesome.
Here they are, the Top 10 AHS characters of all time, ranked.
Tate Langdon (Evan Peters), Murder House
Tate just makes the cut. Peters' turn as this Tumblr-beloved emo child grew far less innocent as the season progressed; by Murder House's end, Tate is the rapist baby daddy of the Antichrist and a school shooter. He is, without a doubt, a very bad person (or, rather, a very bad ghost).
All that being said, Tate makes this list because he's a fantastic character, a complicated mix of good and bad that shot Peters to stardom and endeared him to many (many) fans. His romantic teen relationship with Violet Harmon (Taissa Farmiga) probably helped.
Fiona Goode (Jessica Lange), Coven
Fiona Goode is probably Lange's most iconic AHS role — but that doesn’t mean it’s her best.
Yes, Fiona is enough of a fantastic and terrifying character to make the Top 10 list, but much of Fiona’s storyline feels like the character takes a step forward and then runs straight into a wall over and over again. However, that is partly what makes her so great. We want Fiona to be both a ruthless Supreme and a good mother and a kind leader. We expect so much of her. Those are unfair expectations of anyone and the pressure eventually breaks Fiona in her quest for immortality.
It drives her to a dark place and we are more than happy to follow.
Myrtle Snow (Frances Conroy), Coven
Our couture queen, head of the Witches' Council, and Fiona Goode’s long-time rival Myrtle Snow was a perfect role for Frances Conroy. She’s firm but fair, and who wouldn’t want to have the title “Guardian of Veracity in the Vernacular”?
Myrtle adopted the wayward witches of the coven of the Salem descendants (mainly Cordelia Goode and Misty Day) when Fiona couldn’t uphold her duties as a mother or a Supreme. Plus, gouging peoples’ eyes out with a spoon? Myrtle is ride or die. Sadly, she dies. Twice.
Honestly, Myrtle should be higher on this list. If she’d had more screen time, she would be. RIP.
Constance Langdon (Jessica Lange), Murder House
As one of the first obvious antagonists in American Horror Story history, Constance more than deserves a spot on the list. And, of course, she’s another Lange creation.
This busybody gossip is, putting it lightly, a snake in the grass. Lange is sweet as syrup as Constance with a poisonous smile and a cruel wit. Her complicated relationship with her daughter Adelaide (Jamie Brewer) is a driving force throughout Season 1, yes, but the ultimate consequence — one that might come back to bite everyone in the ass — is a small but important kidnapping.
In the end, Constance is here because she might have driven the Murder House story beyond its 12-episode run. She kidnaps Vivien Harmon (Connie Britton) and Tate’s son, who just so happens to probably be the Antichrist. After all, the Antichrist is supposed to bring about the apocalypse, right? Remind us what the latest season is subtitled?
Kai Anderson (Evan Peters), Cult
Cult’s saving grace was Peters’ portrayal of cult leader Kai Anderson. Kai understands what makes people scared to close their eyes at night and takes full advantage of that. His political aspirations are decidedly far-fetched and the idea that a blue-haired maniac could ever win a national election is… something else.
What really pushed Kai over the edge into being a truly great character was the manner in which Peters portrayed his obsessiveness, his sick joy, his tirades, and, most importantly, the other cult leaders he embodied throughout the season. Cult was meant to mess with us and Peters led the way.
Dandy Mott (Finn Wittrock), Freak Show
His fantastic name aside, Dandy Mott was just fun. Good, disturbing fun. That’s such a rare feeling in American Horror Story.
In Roanoke, we meet Dandy’s ancestor Edward Phillipe Mott and learn that madness has always run in the Mott family. It seems Dandy was doomed from the beginning. But maybe if Dandy’s mother had been slightly less awful, he would have had a chance.
Rich and spoiled rotten, Dandy wanted the one thing he couldn’t have: to be a freak on the edge of society. Driven by this desire to be different (and to therefore fit in), he grows obsessive and eventually takes it upon himself to be Twisty the Clown’s mentee. Using his high social status as a cover, Dandy kills with abandon — especially when boredom brings out those pesky psychopathic tendencies — and takes out everyone from townspeople to his own mother before he meets his end.
Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett), Coven
American Horror Story is usually a very white show, so Bassett’s role as New Orleans’ Voodoo Queen is a fan favorite for more reasons than her performance. Finally, a woman of color in a position of power. But Marie Laveau is an ultimately tragic character.
While she may hold the secret to immortality that Fiona Goode so desperately desires, Marie knows it’s more of a curse than a gift. She lost her children, was forced to provide sacrifices to Papa Legba, and then had to play nice with the racist old white lady (Kathy Bates’ Delphine LaLaurie) who killed her one true love, Bastien.
After having lived for a couple hundred years in a racist world, it’s no wonder Marie Laveau doesn’t necessarily love that Fiona and her coven come darkening her doorstep. Her death was disturbing (dismemberment is never pleasant), but we all know that power didn’t really leave. Marie might be in hell, but her legacy carries on.
Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson), Asylum/Roanoke
Journalist Lana Winters proved so popular that she returned for a second stint on Roanoke and will return for Apocalypse. Lana gets the brunt of some of Asylum’s worst horrors. She’s committed to Briarcliff when she threatens to reveal the asylum’s secrets and maybe leaves a little less stable herself.
Questions of her motivations abounded — Was she a glory hound? Did she actually care about the patients? — and the relationship forced upon her by her psychiatrist and rapist Oliver Thredson resulted in a child she later killed. Lana is a complicated character, one Paulson embodies with cool poise and a tight jaw. We can’t wait to see what becomes of her in Apocalypse.
Liz Taylor (Denis O'Hare), Hotel
O’Hare has been as much of an AHS mainstay as any of the better-recognized series regulars. He’s had roles in Murder House, Coven, Freak Show, and Roanoke, but his best role came in the form of Liz Taylor, a transgender woman and bartender for the Blue Parrot Lounge at the Hotel Cortez.
Putting aside any issues that arise in having a cisgender man playing a transgender woman, Liz Taylor is a rare treasure in Hotel, a season with more than its fair share of problems. While the other characters around her plot and murder their way through the season, Liz is secretive for a reason and pure of heart. Everything from her rekindling her relationship with her son to her desired death at Elizabeth's hand upon finding out she has cancer... It’s all equally heartbreaking and refreshing.
Liz is a complex but still wholly uncomplicated character in a fictional world that often gets too lost in its own mechanisms. She was a breath of fresh air and that’s why she deserves the No. 2 spot.
Sister Jude (Jessica Lange), Asylum
Lange’s best role comes in the form of Sister Jude. When we first meet Sister Jude in Asylum, we assume she is a wholly evil woman. Soon enough, we learn that Jude is an innocent, almost childlike person with a complicated past and a whacked out understanding of mental illness and physical disability, both of which she thought were a physical manifestation of sin.
For a woman so determined to live in a black and white world and who has trouble reconciling faith and science, Jude is a remarkably complex character. Jude fantasizes about Monsignor Howard and wears red lingerie under her clothing. She accidentally kills people and keeps her guilt locked away inside. She’s a recovering alcoholic. She is eventually institutionalized at her own institution and performs a musical number (inside her head) with the other inmates.
From there, Jude’s story becomes a spiraling tale of heartbreak, sickness, and strange, unexplained alien children healing her in the forest. Easily the most fascinating, complicated character in AHS history. Definitely deserving of the No. 1 spot on this list.