Ranked: Sarah Paulson's Roles In American Horror Story

Sarah Paulson has been a staple of American Horror Story and has been in every season since the show began. In many of the seasons, including Apocalypse, Roanoke, and Cult, she even played multiple characters at various points. Without Sarah Paulson, the series would be very different, and she has set herself apart as one of the favorite actors from the series. She has played many strong characters. But, some of her characters were more iconic than others.

Here are Sarah Paulson’s eight main roles from the series ranked from worst to best.

Continue scrolling to keep reading

Click the button below to start this article in quick view

Sarah Paulson in American Horror Story Cult
Start Now


Sarah Paulson in American Horror Story Cult

Cult was a bit of a mess of a season all around. The season tried hard to create an allegory to current political and social issues, but it wasn’t really all that successful. Ally was a mother, wife, and woman with a lot of issues surrounding fear. This is one of the weakest roles and characters that Paulson played in the show. This season reduced Paulson to mostly just a very impressive scream queen, but the character didn’t hold up like many of the others Paulson has played in the series. It’s worth noting that Paulson also briefly played Susan Atkins, one of the Manson sisters, in this season.


Sarah Paulson as Bette and Dot Tattler American Horror Story Freak Show

Freak Show was a season that had its ups and downs. While it was filled with some of the most star-studded members of the anthology cast, it wasn’t as successful as some of the other seasons.

RELATED: American Horror Story: 15 Storylines That Hurt The Show (And 15 That Saved It)

While Twisty the clown will live on in the memories of fans, this wasn’t the season were Paulson was playing her best role. Bette and Dot Tattler were conjoined twins the Freak Show with two very distinct personalities. It is a testament to Paulson that she was able to bring them both to life in the same season.


Sarah Paulson in American Horror Story Roanoke

Roanoke is a season that many people forget about, but it’s better than many people realize. In this season, Paulson actually takes on three roles. The main character she plays is Shelby Miller in the My Roanoke Nightmare reenactment. She also plays Audrey Tindall, the actress who plays Shelby, and she reprises her role at the end of the season as Lana Winters from Asylum.

RELATED: Every American Horror Story Couple, Officially Ranked

While seeing Paulson bring all three of these characters to life was enjoyable, Shelby Miller wasn’t a standout role of Paulson’s. This character is more forgettable which is why this character is lower on the list.


Sarah Paulson in American Horror Story Hotel

Hotel had many memorable characters. In a season that featured Lady Gaga as a bisexual vampire, it’s definitely saying something that Sally McKenna is memorable at all. The character was an addict who died at the Hotel Cortez in the 90s, and her ghost became trapped in the hotel.

RELATED: The Myers-Briggs® Types Of American Horror Story Characters

While she was a rather tragic and dark character for most of the season, she gets a new start at the end just like most of the ghosts at the hotel. Paulson did a good job of bringing this rather unlikable character to life and making fans happy for a happy ending. Paulson also reprised her role as Billie Dean Howard briefly in this season.


Sarah Paulson in American Horror Story Murder House

Billie Dean Howard wasn’t a main character in Murder House, but it was the first season of the show and the first mark Paulson left on the series. Because of this, this role gets a middle spot on the list. Billie Dean Howard is a medium that Constance Langdon finds on Craigslist to try and get Tate Langdon to move on to the afterlife. This character also foretells of the antichrist child that will be born. This character also features later in the series in brief moments.


AHS Hank And Cordelia Foxx

Cordelia Foxx is a fascinating character in Coven. While she is at first overshadowed by her mother, Fiona Goode, she comes into her true power when she steps into the role of Supreme at the end of the season. Cordelia Foxx is an inherently good character, which can sometimes be hard to play without being corny or annoying, but Paulson played the character super effectively.

RELATED: American Horror Story: All 8 Seasons Ranked (From Worst to Best)

Fans felt for Cordelia and the predicament she found herself in and the love she had for the girls in her charge. When it was revealed that Cordelia was actually the Supreme, many fans were excited as she deserved this more than anyone else. She was also an extremely powerful witch and getting to see her realize that herself over the course of the season was rewarding.


Lana Winters AHS Asylum

Lana Winters from Asylum is probably the toughest character that Paulson plays in the series or at least one of the toughest. Lana is a journalist who is committed to exposing the dark things going on at Briarcliff Manor. She disguises herself as Sister Jude to enter the asylum, and then her horror begins. She goes through horrible conversion therapy by Dr. Thredson and is also assaulted by him. This character is tough as nails and ends up escaping in the end. Lana becomes pregnant with Thredsen’s child, and, at the end of the season, has to kill her own son, Johny, to keep him from killing her. This character goes through a lot and the season is dark, but Sarah Paulson brings the character to life in complex, believable ways.


American Horror Story Apocalypse Season 8

In Apocalypse, Paulson plays three characters again. The main new character she plays in Apocalypse is Wilhelmina Venable, and she also briefly plays Billie Dean Howard again. However, the real stand out character is her reprisal of Cordelia Goode(Foxx) from Coven. Seeing Cordelia at her full height as the Supreme was an exciting moment for many fans. While Cordelia was already an amazing character in Coven, it was especially rewarding to see the character’s development and to see her try to save the world from the antichrist.

NEXT: American Horror Story: Every Evan Peters Character, Ranked

More in Lists