Jessica Lange's American Horror Story Characters Ranked Worst To Best

The original leading lady of American Horror Story played plenty of characters throughout her tenure on the series... though not all of them were on the same level. Spoilers for American Horror Story ahead!

The legendary actress — one of a small group of performers to win an Emmy, Tony, and Academy Award throughout her career — joined forces with showrunner Ryan Murphy in 2011 to appear on his horror anthology series American Horror Story, playing a vital supporting role in the show's first season (which would retroactively be dubbed Murder House). Lange continued appearing on American Horror Story throughout its first four seasons before stepping away from the show in 2015, though she reunited with Murphy for shows like Feud: Bette and Joan in 2017 and The Politician in 2019.

Lange, who won two Emmys and a Golden Globe for her work on American Horror Story, has her own favorite characters, but there's no denying that some of Murphy's creations were just more compelling than the others. Here's every one of Jessica Lange's American Horror Story characters, ranked from worst to best.

Elsa Mars, Freak Show

As American Horror Story continued its run, the show veered more towards absurdity, leaning into its campiest instincts... which are perfectly on display in the 2014 season Freak Show. Centered around a local circus and its inhabitants, Freak Show casts Lange as Elsa Mars, the proprietor of the freak show located in Jupiter, Florida, which is one of the last remaining exhibitions of its kind.

After moving to Florida from her native Germany, Elsa takes in unloved and unwanted people with physical deformities, all while hiding an extremely bizarre past. During her time living in Berlin, Elsa was drugged and used in a snuff film where her legs were amputated, though she received prosthetics upon her arrival in America. When Elsa's past is ultimately revealed after she becomes a famous performer — and she finds out that the "freaks" from her show were slain by the sadistic Dandy Mott (Finn Wittrock) — she ends her own life, allowing the ghost of Edward Mordrake (Wes Bentley) to whisk her away to the afterlife. Between Lange's jarring German accent and her utterly weird backstory — which feels pretty unnecessary and comes out of nowhere during the season's narrative — Elsa was probably a fun character for Lange to play, but easily lands at the bottom of this list.

Constance Langdon, Murder House

Lange's first appearance in the American Horror Story universe may have netted the actress her first Emmy for the series, but unfortunately, it's also her smallest role by far. After the Harmon family — Ben (Dylan McDermott), Vivien (Connie Britton), and Violet (Taissa Farmiga) move into a mysterious and old Los Angeles home, they're introduced to their odd, enigmatic next door neighbor, Constance Langdon (Lange). As it turns out, Constance once lived in the house that now belongs to the Harmons, and throughout the season, she plots against the family without their knowledge.

Constance is definitely a great character, but she's also definitely a supporting character, leaving the bulk of the story to the Harmons themselves. Luckily for fans, Constance reappeared in the 2018 season Apocalypse, with Lange reprising her role... and earning an Emmy nod for Outstanding Guest Actress in the process. Constance may be a fan favorite and a fantastic role, but unlike Lange's other AHS roles, she's not a leading lady.

Fiona Goode, Coven

Lange herself might not be a huge fan of Coven, the third season of American Horror Story, but Fiona Goode, the season's leading witch, has undeniably become one of the series' most beloved figures. Fiona, the Supreme of her generation of magical women, rules over her acolytes with an iron fist while also living in fear of being supplanted. At New Orleans' Miss Robichaux's Academy, which trains young witches, Fiona, along with her daughter Cordelia (Sarah Paulson), holds her seat of power steadily... until her powers begin to mysteriously wane, and she must grapple with the idea of relinquishing her crown to find the next generation's Supreme.

Between her cool and confident aura, Fiona's crushing one-liners, and Lange's unbelievable commitment to the role (few actresses other than could have found nuance by screaming about "knotty pine"), Fiona has remained relevant in memes and GIFS throughout the years, and Lange was eventually rewarded with an Emmy for her efforts. Lange is typically at her best when she's playing an imperious, powerful woman, and Fiona is no exception.

Sister Jude Martin, Asylum

Jessica Lange's very best American Horror Story character, like Fiona Goode, begins the season with plenty of power and influence... but when the character faces a horrible downfall, she changes entirely. In the twisted, extraordinarily dark second season, Asylum, Lange plays Sister Jude Martin, the unflinching and unsympathetic matron of Briarcliff, a sanatorium that treats its patients with cruelty and zero mercy. After a tragic accident and a life of misguided revelry drove a young Jude to seek religion and join a convent, she devotes her life to God and to Briarcliff, but after a struggle for power within the institution, she finds herself in a seriously unlikely situation... and becomes a patient herself. However, this brings about a huge change in Jude, who not only becomes determined to right Briarcliff's many wrongs, but ends up living a long and peaceful life, removed from her former cruel, cold attitude.

Jude's journey from gleefully harmful Briarcliff matriarch to a woman grateful for a new lease on life is as beautifully performed by Lange as it is stirring, and eventually, it earned Lange an Emmy nod (though she didn't win that year). Lange has played a lot of great characters on American Horror Story, but Jude is the most layered and fascinating of them all.

American Horror Story is available to stream in its entirety on Netflix now.