"Murder. Madness. Magic. Misfits. Mayhem… Mystery?"American Horror Story is a Horror anthology series created by Ryan Murphy (creator of Nip/Tuck, another FX series) and Brad Falchuk (who are also two of the Glee co-creators). The series is known as a "movie buff's delight", as its plots, soundtrack and visual style thrive on numerous classic movies and horror stories (including, but not limited to, The Shining, Frankenstein, Bram Stoker's Dracula, The Sixth Sense, Twisted Nerve, Taxi Driver, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and Carrie, with some elements of Supernatural Soap Opera series such as Twin Peaks) as well as pay homages to American urban legends and folklore.
— FX Promo Description
There have been five seasons so far:
- American Horror Story: Murder House (2011)note
- American Horror Story: Asylum (2012-2013)
- American Horror Story: Coven (2013-2014)
- American Horror Story: Freak Show (2014-2015)
- American Horror Story: Hotel (2015-2016)
- American Horror Story ?6 (2016)note
- Abusive Parents: Every season has at least one.
- American Title: The entire series in general.
- And Starring: Jessica Lange in the first four seasons, though she's usually preceded by someone with the "With" citation that varies depending on season(s).note
- Anyone Can Die: Well, this is a horror show...
- Big Bad Ensemble: The shows usually have multiple antagonists.
- Black and Gray Morality: Seems to be a default setting to the series. The protagonist(s) is/are usually Anti Heroes, with the unambiguously good character(s) characters either get themselves killed off immediately or not being the driving force of the story.
- Body Horror: Mutilations are common in the shows.
- Break the Cutie: Too many to list.
- Celebrity Paradox: Coven loves doing Harry Potter Shout Outs. The Real Life brother of Joseph Fiennes, one of the main leads of Asylum, plays that film series' Big Bad. Granted, Asylum was set in 1964, two years after the birth of said actor, but still...
- Continuity Creep: Freak Show had a number of references and shared characters with Asylum (likely because Asylum happened a few years later, while the other seasons happen decades later).
- Hotel is directly connected to Murder House. Marcy the Realtor and Billie Dean appear, and the Countess visits the Murder House to get an abortion from Charles Montgomery. It is also connected to Coven because Queenie checks into the Hotel and is killed by James March.
- Crossover Cosmology: Over the course of several seasons, the series has accumulated an eclectic assortment of higher powers. The Antichrist, Satan, the Angel of Death, and Papa Legba have appeared. Furthermore, there’s the Addiction Demon and Edward Mordrake, who aren’t quite deities in their own right but have powers far beyond that of mortals.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: If you can survive to the final ten minutes of a season, you have a chance of getting this.
- Event Title: Technically Freak Show.
- Fake Guest Star: Played with. Some actors/actresses appear in guest/recurring capacity but as different characters, and are nonetheless "mainstays". Most of them are Promoted to Opening Titles below.
- Final Girl: The Lead ingenue played by Sarah Paulson is typically more sensible, introverted, and unpromiscuous. They usually live till the end. Subverted in Hotel, where her character is killed in a flashback in the first episode, though she is not actually dead as she is a ghost. Paulson also reprises her role as Billie Dean Howard, an unrelated character from the first season, and survives her ordeal.
- Flash Forward: All the seasons have ended the season finale on a flash forward epilogue to wrap things up and finish any loose ends.
- Gorn: The violence in the show gets pretty messy and visceral.
- Historical-Domain Character: Seasons often include one, either in the flesh or as a ghost. There's Elizabeth Short (AKA "The Black Dahlia") in Murder House, Anne Frank in Asylum, the Axeman of New Orleans in Coven, and Edward Mordake in Freak Show, not to mention Marie Laveau and Delphine LaLaurie as main characters in Coven. "Anne Frank" turns out to be an impostor with an obsession. Hotel features many more, including Aileen Wuornos, John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer, Richard Ramirez, Gordon Northcott, the Zodiac Killer, F.W. Murnau, Rudolf Valentino, and Natascha Rambova.
- Jump Scare: Again, it's a show with a blatant horror story in its title.
- Kill the Cutie: In a series where Anyone Can Die, the likable and adorable ones are usually the most likely to go first.
- Ms. Fanservice: Anytime Emma Roberts or/and Alexandra Breckenridge appear on screen. That being said, they are not the only ones who offer at the table.
- Mr. Fanservice: Shirtless Scenes and male butt shots are especially common.
- The Place: Murder House, Asylum, Freak Show (technically), and Hotel.
- Rape as Drama: Pretty much every season has a graphic rape scene.
- Shared Universe:
- Asylum and Freak Show, though Word of God says it applies to all seasons of the show.
- Hotel features Marcy the estate agent, Dr. Montgomery and Billie Dean Howard from Murder House, and Queenie from Coven.
- Promotion to Opening Titles: While this is an anthology series, some actors/actresses usually get upgraded to main.
- Team Title: Coven and technically Freak Show.
- You All Look Familiar:
- Given that Word of God said that the entire show has a Shared Universe, one might wonder why exactly certain characters looked alike. Pepper in particular encountered two characters played by Jessica Lange and Evan Peters each in the timeline, and three played by Sarah Paulson.
- Finn Wittrock, Sarah Paulson and Lily Rabe each appeared as two different characters in Hotel.