The 20 Best American Horror Story Villains Ranked

"American Horror Story" has been running for an incredible 10 seasons so far, and in those 10 seasons the stylish, boundary-pushing horror anthology series has offered plenty of scares, and more than its fair share of memorable villains. We've had macabre medical professionals, killer clowns, carnivorous countesses, wicked witches, naughty nuns, and pretty much every kind of nasty creature you can think of. There are far too many to list, but it never hurts to try. So, we're going to do just that. 

Certain characters, such as Angela Bassett's Marie Laveau, are absent from this list. This has nothing to do with the quality of those performances — Angela Bassett is an absolute gem and deserves more recognition than I have time to type out — but I don't consider Marie (or several of my other favorites) to be a villain in the strictest sense. We're not here for the nebulously amoral or the heroes of their own story. We're here for the best of the worst. 

With that necessary caveat out of the way, let's get into what we all came here for: the 20 best "American Horror Story" villains, ranked.

20. Tate Langdon (Murder House)

His famous t-shirt says "normal people scare me," but I'd rather spend time around normal people than Tate Langdon any day. I'd devote hours to listening to someone describe their new kitchen renovations or a trip to the outlet mall before I'd spend even a minute alone with this brooding love-interest-turned-terrifying-villain. 

Tate begins the season as a troubled young man who tugs at Violet's heart strings, as well as those of any young people watching who have a fondness for angst and goth sensibilities. However, before the season has ended, Tate's actions have taken him from "local bad boy" to "get a restraining order and barricade the door." His list of crimes includes multiple counts of murder, senseless violence, carrying out a mass shooting, and felony sexual assault (against his girlfriend's mother, no less). There's no use calling the cops on him, either, since they can't exactly arrest a dead man. 

Fortunately, Tate's bound to the Murder House for 364 days of the year, so unless you decide to stay the night in the world's deadliest Airbnb, the chances of running into him are pretty slim.

19. Michael Langdon (Apocalypse)

It was only a matter of time before "American Horror Story" introduced the actual Antichrist into the equation. Michael Langdon is the unholy offspring of a ghost and a human, conceived when Tate assaulted Vivien Harmon back in season 1. With such a horrifying origin story, you just know this guy is going to be bad to the bone. Michael's appearance was a long time coming; finally, in season 8, he showed up to wreak some good old-fashioned havoc and bring about the end of days. 

When it comes to evil, Michael was something of a child prodigy, murdering his babysitter when he was only four years old. From there, he just kept climbing upward (or, rather, downward), driving his grandmother Constance to commit suicide, becoming the Supreme at Hawthorne School for Exceptional Young Men, and finally bringing about the end of the world as we know it. 

Michael takes after his daddy, the Devil himself, with a cold but charismatic demeanor and the ability to see the darkest secrets of those around him. However, in spite of his abilities and impressive lineage, Michael proves no match for a band of particularly enterprising witches, and his grand plan is eventually foiled.

18. Kai Anderson (Cult)

So far, we've had a ghost and the Antichrist, but just like in the real world, sometimes the scariest monsters are human. In today's climate, there is something about Kai Anderson that feels just a little bit too real for comfort. This cunning, magnetic cult leader plays on people's senses of fear, inadequacy, and loneliness, convincing them that he and he alone is the solution to all that plagues them.  

Kai is extremely good at what he does, even though what he does is incredibly awful. Like the cult leaders who came before him, Kai is captivating and highly persuasive, inspiring his followers to commit atrocities that they once would've found unimaginable. Kai's violent bigotry and frightening grip on those around him make him a truly disconcerting character to watch. When Kai is onscreen, it's like driving past a violent car crash: The sight of it turns your stomach, but you just can't bring yourself to look away.

17. The Axeman (Coven)

Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk often pull from real world horrors when crafting new antagonists for "American Horror Story," reinterpreting them for the purposes of the story. One such antagonist is the Axeman, the ghost of a real killer who was behind a string of murders in New Orleans that were never solved. His killing spree involved targeting anyone who wasn't playing a jazz record in their home, and then, you guessed it, gruesomely chopping them up with an axe. 

Though he plays a relatively small role in the chaos that is season 3, Danny Huston gives a phenomenal performance that flips back and forth between warm Southern charm and quiet menace. He holds his own alongside the formidable Fiona Goode, and the two really do deserve each other. After a tumultuous affair that leaves a hell of a body count in its wake, it stands to reason that they would wind up sharing their own personal hell together.

16. Dr. Arden (Asylum)

The asylum of season 2 is home to some of the most chilling villains of the entire series, including the devious Dr. Arthur Arden. The head doctor at Briarcliff, Arden threw out the Hippocratic Oath a long time ago, and spends his time performing twisted experiments on his patients rather than helping them get better. 

Dr. Arden is deeply unpleasant to watch on screen largely due to a performance from James Cromwell that is so subtle and creepy that it makes my skin crawl. There is one scene in particular involving Sister Mary Eunice and a candy apple that would almost be sweet, if it weren't so stomach-churningly icky. As the story of "Asylum" unfolds, it is revealed that Arden is not just an unscrupulous doctor obsessed with purity and cleanliness, but is also an escaped Nazi war criminal. As far as human monsters go, it doesn't get more evil than that.

15. Stanley (Freak Show)

Speaking of people who pretend to be something they're not, here's Stanley, the smooth-talking con man from season 4. Stanley arrives at the titular freak show dangling the lure of potential stardom, masquerading as a Hollywood agent interested in signing some of the performers. Of course, he's not even remotely who he says he is. He's scouting, for sure, but he's really looking for specimens to sell to the American Morbidity Museum for a tidy profit, and he doesn't care who he hurts in the process. All he's thinking about is the money, and the only thing bigger than his greed is his, well ... let's call it his "ego."

Thankfully, Stanley does get his comeuppance, although not before he causes several deaths and the loss of Jimmy's hands. Still, once they learn what he did, the remaining members of the freak show dispense some justice in the style of 1932's "Freaks." Stanley's motivation is a lot more basic than most of the other villains on this list, but sometimes the pursuit of money really is the root of evil.

14. Dandy Mott (Freak Show)

Speaking of money, being born into the lap of luxury is part of what made another season 4 villain, Dandy Mott, so rotten. He's not an ordinary rich brat, however, although he's certainly spoiled way past rotten. Dandy gets absolutely everything he wants, and when even that isn't enough to satisfy his appetites, he turns to more gruesome pastimes.

Don't let the beautiful face of Finn Wittrock fool you. Dandy is a monster through and through. He starts by killing the neighbor's cat, but soon moves on to bigger and more human prey. Nothing is ever enough for this guy, including murder. He wants more, and more, and more. He even kills his own mother. That'll teach her to ... cater to her son's every whim for his entire life? Dandy's rampage is finally put to a stop when the surviving freaks get one over on him. At least he gets to be the center of attention when he dies.

13. Scáthach (Roanoke)

Though the human villains of "American Horror Story" are some of its scariest, it's tough to compete with an immortal witch who also happens to be the original Supreme. As mysterious and inscrutable as she is powerful, Scáthach escaped execution for witchcraft and made a new home in the wilderness of the New World. There, she made a bargain for the soul of Thomasin White, and demanded that the people of the Roanoke colony provide her with sacrifices. When some refused, she set off the events that resulted in their extinction.

Scáthach leads the lost spirits of the former colony, commanding them long after their deaths. She brings out the evil in the hearts of others, driving seemingly ordinary people to depraved violence. She is as terrifying as she is powerfully seductive, capturing the devotion of lovers and followers alike. A primal force of nature and ancient magic, Scáthach is not someone to make any deals with. I probably shouldn't have to tell you this, but if a strange woman with wild hair approaches you in a dark forest and offers you a fresh boar heart, don't eat it.

12. Margaret Booth (1984)

The 9th season of "American Horror Story" is an exploration of the various staples of 1980s slasher movies, and there are few slasher tropes more beloved than that of the "Final Girl." The Final Girl is the survivor, the last one standing after all of her friends have been hacked to death. She emerges from the wreckage, splattered with blood and with a lifetime of therapy ahead of her, but very much alive. 

Margaret Booth positions herself as a Final Girl, the sole survivor of the massacre that ruined her trip to summer camp in 1970. Now, she's back as the quirky but well-intentioned camp director, ready to reinvent Camp Redwood as a wholesome place for children. 

But that's all a lie. Margaret did emerge from the massacre alive, but only because she was the killer herself. Tired of facing bullying from her fellow counselors, Margaret snapped and murdered them all, framing an innocent man in the process. Margaret may not have any supernatural abilities, but beneath her saccharine mask she's a coldhearted killer who doesn't bat an eye when she takes a life.

11. Mr. March (Hotel)

H. H. Holmes is considered by many to be America's first serial killer. As millions flocked to Chicago for the 1893 World's Fair, Holmes took advantage of the influx of strangers to lure unsuspecting victims into his "Murder Castle." The building, outfitted with trap doors, secret passages, and soundproof rooms, was the perfect place to make his kills. He is one of the most memorable monsters in American history, and serves as the inspiration for "American Horror Story: Hotel" baddie Mr. James Patrick March. 

Played by Evan Peters, Mr. March is a wealthy serial killer who constructed the Cortez Hotel in the 1920s, intending it to be his very own Murder Castle. Even after his death, his evil lives on — his ghost haunts the hotel, searching for someone worthy of carrying on his murderous legacy. Mr. March's spirit spends the years influencing many of the hotel's guests, who go on to become some of the most awful killers in history. His actions are vile enough on their own, but the ripple effects of Mr. March's activities are even worse, resulting in some of the most inhuman crimes of all time.

10. The Infantata (Murder House)

For a new parent, there is nothing scarier than the idea of something terrible happening to their baby. "Murder House" comes along, takes that fear, and cranks it up to 11. What would you do if your baby tragically died and your husband couldn't accept the loss, driving him to use mad science to play God and turn that child into a horrible monster who will dwell in the basement of your house forever? That's the story behind the Infantata, one of the horrors dwelling inside the 1st season's haunted house. 

When Charles Montgomery's infant son was kidnapped and killed, he could not accept it. In spite of his grieving wife's pleas, he tried to bring the baby back, and created an abomination instead. The creature hides in the dark, foreboding basement, waiting for victims so that it can feast on their blood. And this was the 1st season of the show! "American Horror Story" didn't waste any time bringing in disturbing content. The Infantata combines several primal fears (the dark, going into the basement, the loss of a child, and the undead) into one horrible monstrosity.

9. Constance Langdon (Murder House)

Before there was Michael and before there was Tate, there was the matriarch of the Langdon family: the cigarette-toting Southern belle Constance. She moved to Los Angeles with dreams of becoming an actress, but when they fell apart, she settled for becoming a murderer instead. Okay, it wasn't that simple, but while living in the Murder House, Constance killed her unfaithful husband and her maid, Moira, trapping their spirits inside the building forever. 

Although her son, Tate, contributes more directly to the Harmon family's fate, Constance is often pulling the strings behind the scenes. She can wither someone with a look and a backhanded compliment, and she is willing to kill her own family members in order to get what she wants. Honestly, if someone was going to try and raise the Antichrist, Constance would be the only broad tough enough to do it.

8. The Butcher (Roanoke)

Scáthach may have set her loose, but the Butcher, also known as Thomasin White, is a villain grotesque enough to stand on her own. Played by horror icon Kathy Bates, just the sight of this macabre figure's broad smile and butcher knife is enough to send a shiver up your spine. That right there? That's the last thing you see before you die a very violent death, chopped up into bloody chunks. 

Once a regular woman who took over as the leader of the colony in her husband's absence, Thomasin traded her soul to Scáthach for safety from a boar attack. From that moment on, she became the witch's undying muscle, killing countless innocents to provide sacrifices to the old gods. She roams the Earth as a ghost, but Thomasin is no ordinary spirit. She has powers of invisibility and pyrokinesis. She's creative with her kills, too, sometimes abandoning her signature butcher knife in order to crush a skull or burn someone alive.

7. Fiona Goode (Coven)

Despite her name, Fiona Goode is not good at all. In fact, she is one of the baddest witches out there, at least when she's at the top of her game. Unfortunately for Fiona, during the events of season 3, her strength begins to wane, in spite of all of her attempts to hold on to her power.

Fiona starts the season as the Supreme Witch, living a life of glamor and luxury. But time comes for us all, and the aging Fiona is no exception. She is driven to unthinkable acts in her pursuit of youth, life, and a way to hold on to the station she has enjoyed. As younger witches begin to come into their powers, it becomes clear that a new Supreme is on the rise, and Fiona grows increasingly desperate. 

Fiona is as formidable as she is heartbreaking. Although she resorts to some pretty unconscionable measures to stay alive, it's hard not to feel a little bit of pity for her, especially with Jessica Lange giving the role her scenery-chewing all in a performance touched with shades of Joan Crawford and Bette Davis.

6. Twisty the Clown (Freak Show)

Some of the best "American Horror Story" villains come with deeply sad origin stories in addition to all of the bloodshed and mayhem. Twisty the Clown, brought to life by the impeccable character actor John Carroll Lynch, is one of the most visually frightening characters in the show's run. Aside from the fact that clowns are creepy in general, Twisty has a bloody face, stained costume, and that horrible mask fixed in a permanent, way-too-wide smile. 

Twisty's actions aren't any nicer. He's a stalker, a murderer, and a kidnapper who terrorizes the people of his town. But he wasn't always a monster. He was made one by circumstance. After rumors spread by jealous competitors destroyed his life, Twisty attempted to commit suicide, and blew off his lower jaw with a shotgun. This resulted in a disfigurement that he covers with that sinister mask. Of course, that doesn't justify any of the murders or anything, but Twisty's still much more tragic than your everyday creepy clown.

5. Edward Mordrake (Freak Show)

Like other "American Horror Story" takes on real-world figures, season 4's Edward Mordrake adapts an existing story into something even more monstrous. Edward Mordrake, also known as "the Man with Two Faces," was the subject of an 1895 Boston Sunday Post article about medical oddities, which claimed that the young man had a second face on the back of his head. According to the article, which is believed to be completely made up, the second face would smile when Edward cried, and would torment him with whispers about terrible things. Finally, when he could not take it anymore, Edward committed suicide at age 23. 

In "American Horror Story," Mordrake is a spirit summoned when a member of the freak show performs on Halloween. Once he has been summoned, his second face tells him to collect the soul of one of the carnies. There are scarier and more powerful villains on the series, but Edward Mordrake makes quite a mark in his short time on the show and provides a fresh, interesting take on a classic and unsettling story.

4. Sister Jude (Asylum)

By now, one thing should be very clear: If you give Jessica Lange a cigarette and a character obsessed with maintaining the power that is slowly slipping through her fingers, then you have the makings of a great "American Horror Story" villain. Season 2's Sister Jude is no exception. In fact, she's arguably the most compelling villain that Jessica Lange has portrayed on the show. Jude has one of the most dramatic character arcs of any of the series' villains, one that takes her from the top of the heap to the lowest possible point. 

Sister Jude runs the Briarcliff mental hospital with an iron fist, bending the patients to her warped version of goodness and health. But all of her bluster and cruelty masks a dark secret, and deep sense of self-loathing. After years spent abusing her power, Sister Jude finds herself on the receiving end of Briarcliff's unethical practices when she herself is committed. Jude witnesses the hospital's horrors first-hand, with the knowledge that she put most of those horrors in place herself. Finally, after enduring a parade of trauma and suffering, Jude achieves something that "American Horror Story" villains rarely do: She finds a kind of redemption.

3. Dr. Oliver Thredson/Bloody Face (Asylum)

There is no moment in all of "American Horror Story" that compares to the stomach-dropping gut punch of a certain season 2 scene between Lana Winter and Dr. Thredson. As Lana and the audience start to realize that the gentle, sympathetic doctor is not the ally he first appeared to be, Lana tries to keep her composure. Looking at a hidden room full of homemade furniture, Lana asks in a quivering voice, "What kind of material do you use?" Casting aside the pretense once and for all, Thredson deadpans, "Skin." 

It only gets worse from there. Zachary Quinto kills it, pun very much intended, as Dr. Oliver Thredson, aka the notorious serial killer Bloody Face. All of the scenes between Thredson and Lana following the reveal of his identity are nail-bitingly tense as Thredson blurs the line between physiatrist and violent, unhinged madman. While most of the other villains from this season are easily identifiable as bad from the start, Dr. Thredson really did seem like he could be a good guy. That potential only makes the reveal of his true identity all the more devastating.

2. Countess Elizabeth (Hotel)

How does one rate a villain? On their thirst for blood? How much fun they have committing evil deeds? What about their sheer, deliciously devilish sense of style? In all of those categories, season 5's Countess Elizabeth takes the crown — and you just know that she has an impeccable gown to pair it with. Afflicted with a virus that grants her immortality at the cost of an insatiable hunger for human blood, Elizabeth is a beautiful vampire steeped in Old Hollywood decadence. 

As the owner of the Hotel Cortez, Elizabeth has a revolving door of potential food sources, as well as new and interesting people to make into vampires, if the urge strikes her. The countess is a nuanced villain with a complicated history and her own kind of moral code. For example, she does not kill children, preferring to turn them and make them part of her family. However, in spite of all her emotional depth, Elizabeth is still a predatory creature who must feed on the living to survive. That's technically wrong, no matter how fabulous she looks while doing it.

1. Sister Mary Eunice (Asylum)

Listen, the rest of the villains on this list put up an admirable fight, but when it comes to evil, you just can't compete with the Devil, especially when he comes in such an ironic package. At the start of season 2, Sister Mary Eunice is a painfully sweet and naïve young nun with a soft heart and a gentle disposition. However, when she attends an exorcism, she becomes a vessel for the Devil. From that point on, the old Mary Eunice is no more. She becomes conniving, sadistic, foul-mouthed, and incredibly manipulative. The newly possessed Sister Mary Eunice aims to gather as much power as she can get, even making a plan to infiltrate the Vatican itself. 

The character of Sister Mary Eunice goes to such dark places that Lily Rabe was never the same after playing the role. But in spite of how difficult it was to portray her, Rabe turns in an absolutely stellar performance as both the sweet, angelic sister and also the devil lurking inside of her, making her the most memorable villain in the series so far.