The Best Seasons of ‘American Horror Story’ for People Who Hate Horror

Ryan Murphy has created many great, long-lasting series, from Glee to Pose to American Horror Story. That last one redefined the horror television genre, which really didn’t exist in the same way as it does now thanks to Murphy’s creation. It’s nominated every single season for Emmys and Golden Globes, and has starred some of today’s best actors. 

But what if horror isn’t for you? Have you been sitting out on this show for years because you can’t even think of stomaching the chills and frights? You’re definitely not alone, and the show itself doesn’t rely on jump scares and typical horror tropes 100 percent of the time. Each season is messed up in some way, and there’s a lot of gore to go around. But if you’d like to watch a season that maybe isn’t as scary, these are the ones to go for. 

A general view of The Paley Center For Media Celebrates "American Horror Story: The Style Of Scare" exhibit.
A general view of The Paley Center For Media Celebrates “American Horror Story: The Style Of Scare” exhibit | Gabriel Olsen/FilmMagic

‘Cult’

Cult plays on more psychological terrors than regular horror. It’s very much aligned with personal fears in a post-2016 election world. This season — the seventh one — plays on a lot of real-life evils like racism, bigotry, and homophobia. It, of course, takes it to an extreme, but it shows how someone’s anxiety and phobias can twist the way they see the world. As stated above, there’s murder and gore, but as far as horror and jump scares, it doesn’t have as much. So you might be able to get through this one. 

‘Hotel’

Hotel does have ghosts — in fact, most of the cast are ghosts — however, they’re just people in this context. They all live within the hotel because once you die there, you can’t leave. Lady Gaga plays the Countess, a vampire-like creature who makes a lot of kills in the building, so the ghost population is larger than the living. There are some jump scares, like with the mattress demon, but it’s really more story-driven. Plus, it has a pretty pleasant ending. Or as pleasant as it can get in American Horror Story

‘Coven’ (sort of)

So Coven is a bit of a toss-up. It delves into witchcraft and voodoo and has some truly gruesome scenes. But in terms of ghosts and typical horror tropes, it’s lean on those. There aren’t a ton of jump scenes, and it really does focus on the characters. It’s actually one of the only seasons where each character feels like their own person with their own storyline. Sure, it’s an ensemble, but they’re pretty individualized within the cast. The strong New Orleans influence makes it one of the most distinct seasons as well. It can get chilling, so if you are really against horror, maybe stay away from this one. 

‘Apocalypse’

And if you can make it through Coven, then Apocalypse is definitely for you. Along with Hotel, this is probably the most enjoyable, non-horror season. It deals with the end of the world, of course, and real-life horrors that come with nuclear fallout. Again, gruesome, but it’s really intriguing to see the non-linear timeline play out. And a lot of the main characters from Coven come back, which is why you should watch it if you made it through Coven

These are the worst, if you hate horror

Alright, so these seasons are literal nightmares for those who can’t stand horror. Basically the rest of the nine that haven’t been mentioned, but specifically, let’s start with Murder House. This is the first and it holds a lot of love for fans of the show. It’s also your typical horror story. It takes place in a haunted house, with ghosts galore, and jump scares to last you for days. But the story is really good, so it’s up to you. 

Next, there’s Asylum, which might be the scariest season. It takes place in a mental institution and the theme of religion and aliens permeates the season. It’s gruesome, bone-chilling, and perfect for horror lovers. Others? Not so much. But at least it gave us the “Name Game” scene, which everyone can enjoy.

Then you have Roanoke which is probably the most basic type of horror. It’s not as good as Murder House, story-wise, but it has ghosts, mythical elements, and will make you jump out of your skin. It’s also very bloody. Same with Freak Show. It relies on a gruesome and terrifying clown for the first few episodes, and the rest is just… weird. It’s not for the faint of heart.

Lastly, there’s 1984 which is literally a slasher flick elongated into a full season. There are mysteries and twists, but it also follows the tropes and story of a typical slasher film. For those that don’t like scary movies, stay away from this ode to classic horror.