There are some American Horror Story players who just scream evil. Kathy Bates has played a villain (or a villain-enabler) in nearly every season she’s appeared in, while Evan Peters has gutted more than his fair share of innocent people. But Ryan Murphy tends to cast Sarah Paulson, reigning queen of the AHS franchise, as his easy-to-root for hero.
Though not always! Paulson has played some truly — conflicted? — women throughout her eight installments on this show, and we’re here to rank each and every one of them in reverse order of evil. It’s what control freak Ally Mayfair-Richards would have wanted us to do.
10. Cordelia Foxx, Coven
It’s easy to forget now that she’s reigned supreme and stabbed herself to death to thwart an apocalypse, but the Cordelia we met in Coven was quite the broken bird. Emotionally abused by her mother and manipulated by her witch hunter husband, it’s amazing that Cordelia ended up as sweet, gentle, and incredibly brave as she became. She proved when she stabbed her own eyes out that she’d do anything for her girls, and she even forgave her horrific mother Fiona before the end of her first series. Cordelia was nothing short of a saint, and the only real choice for Supreme.
9. Audrey Tindall, Roanoke
Audrey’s only crime was being a vain, narcissistic actor with a posh British accent, terrible taste in men, and a maddening inability to accept what was happening around her. She killed some people, but only in the purest form of self-defense (they were literally cannibals), and she did not deserve to die the way that she did.
8. Lana Winters, Asylum
Lana Winters was arguably the most traditional version of a hero AHS has ever seen. Smart, strong, and incredibly resilient, it was impossible not to root for Lana as she fought against multiple forces of evil. The poor woman was locked up for being nosy and gay, tortured by a serial killer and a drunk nun, and almost murdered easily a half-dozen times. So while no one would ever call Lana Banana "evil," she was irrevocably changed for the worse by her experiences at Briarcliff. She became selfish and ice-cold after escaping the asylum and rising to success as a writer; neglecting her responsibilities to her trapped fellow inmates (and to Sister Jude) despite making serious bank by telling their story. Lana 2.0 cared only about herself.
7. Billie Dean Howard, Murder House
Billie wasn’t good or bad. Billie was, just like her job, medium. On the plus side, she warned the Harmon family about Michael (Cody Fern) being the Antichrist (fat lot of good that did). On the minus, she eventually earned her living as a celebrity medium, which is pretty much the most annoying thing a person could be. We admire her aesthetic, but don’t exactly trust her, y’know?
6. Dot Tattler, Freak Show
All poor Dot wanted was an escape from her obnoxious, chronically masturbating sister. We can’t blame her for wanting to kill Bette from time to time. But when Dandy dangled the prospect of separation surgery in front of Dot’s face she refused, knowing the danger it might cause to her and her conjoined sister. All in all, Dot was pretty cool.
5. Cordelia Goode, Apocalypse
The Cordelia we met post-apocalypse was a changed woman. No longer afraid to draw a little blood when it meant saving her girls, Cordelia slaughtered warlocks and satanists like a boss, and gave hell (heaven?) to Michael Langdon whenever she possibly could. Cordelia could never be evil-evil, but she moves up a bit in the rankings for fully embracing burning people alive as a battle tactic.
4. Bette Tattler, Freak Show
Bette murdered her mother — she had it coming, but still! — and nearly tortured poor Dot to death with her narcissism and chronic masturbation (which brings up a whole host of troubling consent issues). Bette was bitterly jealous when Dot revealed her superstar singing voice, and made nasty comments about her (twin!) sister’s appearance just to be a jerk. Not the most evil character in AHS history by a long shot, but a pretty crappy sibling nonetheless.
3. Ally Mayfair-Richards, Cult
Ally Richards was a mess. Even before the whole cult thing, Ally selfishly damaged the lives of those around her by refusing to take the medicine that helped her move past her phobias — her recklessness with her mental health cost poor, sweet Pedro his life! Then she joined Kai’s cult as the “Pentagram clown,” and all evil hell broke loose. Ally murdered her loving wife and the cult-loving Bebe Babbitt, manipulated the deaths of others (RIP, Winter), and generally terrorized her community all for the sake of a burgeoning political career. Stay out of our neighborhood, Ally.
2. "Hypodermic" Sally McKenna, Hotel
While still alive, "Hypodermic" Sally McKenna’s heroin use proved problematic when she injected her friends then sewed their bodies together, leading to their deaths (uh, obviously). She also inadvertently murdered Donovan (Matt Bomer) with her dirty needle, and showed virtually no remorse when he died. This led to her death when Donovan’s grieving mother, Iris, pushed Sally out the window — however, unlike Tate Langdon from Murder House, Sally did not improve at all during her afterlife. She worked in tandem with the Addiction Demon to torture attractive men at the Cortez, eventually sewing Gabriel (Max Greenfield) into his hotel bed after he was raped by a horrific drill-dildo (drilldo?). She was also responsible for luring one man per year to his death at James March’s Devil’s Night party, and assisted John Lowe (Wes Bentley) in a number of his Ten Commandment Killings. So, yeah — pretty damn evil if we say so ourselves.
1. Wilhemina Venable, Apocalpyse
Wilhemina’s kills, on paper, were not as "flashy" or as brutal as Hypodermic Sally’s. But Ms. Venable tops the heroin ghost on this list because she knew the world was going to end and did nothing about it, she poisoned the heroes of Outpost 3 to earn a seat at the Antichrist’s table, and most of all, she spent her life motivated by insecurity, greed, and hatred. Venable worked for the detestable Jeff Pfister and Mutt Nutter (Billy Eichner) for years because she wanted to be close to power, and she tortured Coco (Leslie Grossman), Tim (Kyle Allen), Emily (Ash Santos), and the rest of the (mostly) innocent people at Outpost 3 for 18 months just because she could. With the undoing of Michael’s Apocalypse, we’re a little terrified because our world is still populated with Wilhemina Venable.
Check out all these versions of Sarah Paulson in action by watching every single season of American Horror Story, ad-free, only on FX+