With American Horror Story: Hotel finally kicking off Stateside tonight (October 7), we thought it was high time we revisited our definitive ranking of the gruesome anthology series' most iconic female characters across seasons 1-3.
AHS has always been particularly notable for putting the ladies front and centre of the murderous action, with more deadly females than you can shake a broomstick at - and with the imminent introduction of Lady Gaga's murderous hotelier The Countess, that number looks only set to grow...
Limited to one character per actress, we’ve ranked our top ten women from Murder House, Asylum and Coven from the mad, to the bad to the...erm, well that pretty much sums it up really.
Full spoilers from the first three seasons follow so if you’re yet to catch any of them, look away now. If not, read on to find out if you agree with our choices…
10. Vivien Harmon (Connie Britton)
Moving house is hard. Especially hard when the deed to the "fresh start" pad you just bought with your philandering husband turns out to include everyone who's been brutally murdered on the premises. Viv dealt with it like a champ, though, throwing her hubby out, chowing down cow brains after falling pregnant with The Anti-Christ and eventually opting for the sweet release of death. The silver lining in all this is that she decided to make the most of her eternal afterlife and take up the cello.
Best line: “I’m finding it really hard to look at your face, because I really, really want to bash it in.”
9. Myrtle Snow (Frances Conroy)
Frances Conroy was finally given the chance to shine in Coven as Myrtle Snow, the uptight head of the Witches’ Council. In an academy filled with throat-slitting and strangulation, her method of offing the rest of the Council via poisoned melon balls seemed positively refined in comparison (though in fairness she did proceed to gouge out their eyes with kitchen utensils) – and that’s before you’ve even got to her penchant for black lace gloves and playing the theramin. Plus, she dealt with being burnt at the stake like a total pro. Twice.
Best line: “Don’t be a hater, dear.”
8. Stevie Nicks
The rock legend’s appearances in Coven may have been brief, but for sheer self-referential ballsiness they were, quite simply, amazing. As a White Witch and long-time friend of Fiona, Stevie was called in as a treat for Fleetwood Mac fan-girl Misty Day. After giving Misty a quick 101 in how to correctly twirl a shawl, she inexplicably returned in the season finale, where she sang (mimed to) Seven Wonders in a top hat before promptly leaving again. Money well spent.
Best line: “I’m Stevie Nicks.”
7. Madame Delphine LaLaurie (Kathy Bates)
Based on a real-life historical figure, Kathy Bates' sadistic socialite had a wide variety of hobbies, including torturing her slaves, using their blood as part of her daily skincare regime and creating her own pet Minotour. After drinking an immortality potion and finding herself excavated in modern-day New Orleans, one of Coven's greatest joys was watching the 18th century white supremacist forced to watch The Color Purple and adapt to a world in which Barack Obama is President.
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.”
6. Hayden McClaine (Kate Mara)
Poor old Hayden, she didn’t have a great time of it in Murder House , did she? The young student’s short-lived affair with Ben Harmon saw her wind up pregnant, bludgeoned to death with a shovel and buried under a gazebo - unsafe sex indeed. After discovering her spirit was trapped in her former lover’s house for all eternity, she did what any self-respecting gay would do and took luxurious baths, shagged the other ghosts and pretended to put the family dog in the microwave. Atta girl.
Best line: “Why does being dead make me so horny?”
5. Marie Laveau (Angele Bassett)
Let’s be honest, there was never any chance that an immortal voodoo queen who runs her own hair salon wasn’t going to make it into the top half of this list. And when she wasn’t chopping off locks during shifts at Cornrow City, the 300-year-old sass-pot was chopping the heads off her rivals, as arch-nemesis Kathy Bates soon discovered. OK, so she was sacrificing newborn babies in exchange for eternal life, but just look at that complexion!
Best line: “When I plant a fat-ass cracker bitch, I expect her to stay planted.”
4. Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson)
Asylum was arguably AHS's most harrowing season, and no more so than for plucky lesbian reporter Lana Winters. After being subjected to electro-shock therapy, corrective rape and torture at the hands of Zachary Quinto’s sinister Dr Thredson – aka terrifying serial killer Bloody Face – naturally it was high-fives all round when she eventually escaped the asylum and spent the afternoon getting her hair and make-up done before exacting some Old Testament-style revenge on her former tormentor. Briarcliffe’s last survivor, Lana cemented her gay icon status in the series finale when – as a now 75-year-old celebrity author – she shot her estranged son (also a serial killer, FYI) in the head on the set of a TV interview.
Best line: “I am tough, but I’m no cookie.”
3. Madison Montgomery (Emma Roberts)
Emma Roberts wasted no time making her mark on Coven as coke-addled Hollywood starlet Madison Montgomery. After getting date-raped in the season opener and promptly massacring the bus-load of college boys responsible, the “stone-cold bitch who loves hard-drinking, big dicks and trouble” tore through Miss Robichaux’s Academy like a telekinetic Regina George on steroids. Madison might have had her throat slit in an attempt to stop her becoming the next Supreme, but thankfully the Li-Lo of witchcraft was brought back from the dead even more sociopathic and vengeful than ever before – though not before Fiona had time to deliver the incredible line: “Bury her deep. God knows what all that shit in her body will do to the lawn when it comes up in the spring.” Best line: “Welcome to the revolution carrot-top. As the next Supreme I’m going to drag this coven out of the dark ages. Crotchless panties for everyone.”
2. Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe)
Answering the question: what happens when you cross the little red-headed nun from Sister Act with Satan, Asylum's wicked Sister Mary Eunice left us checking under the bed at night and stocking up on rosary beads, as the mild-mannered nun's demonic possession saw her transform from nervous drip into Briarcliffe’s sadistic ruler. It all started innocently enough with a bit of slutty red lipstick and caning the inmates, but before too long she was buddying-up with Nazi doctors, raping the local priest and concocting a plan to take over the Vatican. As if that wasn’t distressing enough, Lily Rabe later described the character’s journey as an “amazing metaphor for life”. We might have to disagree with you there, Lil.
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!”
1. Fiona Goode (Jessica Lange)
OK, so we know that in an ideal world, all three of Jessica Lange's roles on AHS would be at the top of this list. But if there's one thing the show has taught us, it's that life doesn't always turn out exactly as you want it to. While she stole the show as murderous Constance Langdon and callous lounge-singer-turned-nun Sister Mary Jude in Murder House and Asylum respectively, her role as Coven's Supreme Witch Fiona Goode just edges them both to take the crown.
As the crumbling matriarch desperately clinging on to her power (and offing the young upstarts who threatened it), Fiona's venomous one-liners, cocaine-fuelled rages and insistence on wearing Chanel made her the most magnetic woman in AHS yet (and rightly bagged Lange her second Emmy for her work on the show).
She's insisted that Freak Show will be her last season of AHS, but creator Ryan Murphy has revealed that he's already trying to persuade her to stay on. Here's hoping.
Best line: “This coven doesn’t need a new Supreme. It needs a new rug.”