Since its premiere in 2011, American Horror Story has been pushing television boundaries to the extreme. With situations involving common themes such as sex, violence, murder, and abuse, the events within this show have definitely given viewers some intense imagery and thematic elements to handle. While some seasons have been crazier than others, there's no shortage of shocking elements in this horror anthology as a whole.
With this list, we will focus on the 23 most shocking moments in the show's 5-year history. Mind you, this list is rather subjective, as shock value varies from person to person. If you feel like something was more shocking, or that a moment is missing from the list, feel free to say so in the comments!
Some of these situations might be considered too graphic for some readers, so exercise some caution as you proceed (there are descriptions and images attached to each entry). Also keep in mind that this does feature MAJOR SPOILERS for all five seasons, so you might want to come back after a Netflix binge if you're not totally caught up yet.
You've been warned!
23. Vivien's Pregnancy Diet
Season: Murder House
Women crave a lot of crazy things when they're pregnant. My sister once ate M&M's with mustard (barf!), but the inaugural season of American Horror Story took weird pregnancy diets to the extreme. To please her persistent neighbor and the longstanding housekeeper, Vivien Harmon begins consuming raw meats and organs — including brains — to ensure the health of the unborn child. Yeah, it made us gag too.
22. Spaulding's Delights
It was weird enough to know that Spaulding was missing his tongue. It was another thing to find out that his living space at Miss Robichaux's was full of dolls and trinkets often reserved for young girls. What made it worse was to see he had taken the corpse of Madison Montgomery so she could participate in his tea parties.
21. Mr. March's Favorite Game
The owner of the Hotel Cortez, James Patrick March, definitely had some screws loose. After all, he specially built the hotel to use it as some sort of torture chamber and murder palace for his victims. As if that wasn't shocking enough, we had the privilege of seeing Mr. March murder his loyal maid, Mrs. Evers, and then slice his own throat to avoid being caught by police.
20. Oh, Hello Aliens
Asylum had decent amount of subplots and although they all carried their own brand of crazy, the extraterrestrial angle brought to Briarcliff via Kit Walker was pretty intense. After his wife Alma was abducted by aliens, Kit is accused of murder and labeled as the Bloody Face killer. We later see the alien storyline branch out with Dr. Arden as he discovers technology implanted within Kit's body and witnesses alien abductions himself. It's wacky but awesome.
19. Freak Show Massacre
Season: Freak Show
Freak Show as a whole had a lot of death, but the climax of the season came when Dandy Mott decided to go on a murderous rampage throughout the camp. Several freaks had already been killed by this point, but this rampage wiped out all but four of them.
18. Kyle's Mom
Kyle's story was a bit sad: He was a nice frat boy who became a victim of witch rage. However, you felt a whole lot of new emotions when his backstory came into play. Upon arriving back at his house, we are introduced to his grieving mother and quickly learn he was also a victim of incestuous abuse his whole life. Yikes.
17. Jimmy Darling's Side Job
Season: Freak Show
Jimmy the Lobster Boy never seemed too embarrassed by his condition despite his hands being a main draw of the freak show. Soon after his introduction, we see that he's quite a charmer with the ladies and that he "helps them out" in specific ways. What better way to make a few extra bucks than using your condition to please unsatisfied housewives?
16. The Frat Party
Most everyone would get excited if a celebrity showed up at their party. The frat boys in Coven were no different when they took the opportunity to exploit movie star Madison Montgomery. Help arrives a bit too late, as Madison had already been raped by some frat members while others watched and recorded with their cell phones. As revenge, Madison storms out of the party and uses her magic to flip the frat bus upside down, killing nearly everyone inside.
15. Vivien's Ultrasound
Season: Murder House
Things sort of went wrong from day one with Vivien's pregnancy. After realizing that her baby was developing way too quickly, she is rushed to the hospital and sent for an ultrasound. When the ultrasound tech faints after seeing the image on screen, Vivien begins searching for answers. It's later revealed that the tech believes she saw the Antichrist inside Vivien's womb. Luckily, we never see the image so our imaginations are free to explore.
14. The Monster and the Corkscrew
Hotel set the bar for shock value early on in the season with this surprise character. After a young man named Gabriel checks himself into the Hotel Cortez, he is greeted by a faceless monster. Not only is Hypodermic Sally around to watch, but Gabriel is raped by the monster and its giant, corkscrew dildo. It's said to have been a metaphor for addiction, but it definitely caused our jaws to drop.
13. Cordelia's Voodoo Sex Party
In a last-ditch effort to have a child with her treacherous husband, Cordelia Foxx reaches out to Marie Laveau for ancient, voodoo fertility methods. It's a rather graphic sex scene complete with snakes, more snakes, and some pretty interesting choices of words. In other words, it was incredibly weird.
12. Lana's Nighttime Drive
After Lana manages to escape the horrors of Thredson's murder basement, she runs into even more bad luck after she's picked up by a motorist. Her false sense of safety is quickly thrown away after the motorist commits suicide while driving and crashes the car into a ditch. Lana is badly injured and unfortunately winds up back at Briarcliff.
11. Elsa's Past
Season: Freak Show
For a majority of the season, all we knew about Elsa Mars was that she was the owner of the traveling freak show and that she was missing her legs from the knee down. That all changed when we discovered she was a German sex star back in the 1930s and lost her legs at the hands of chainsaw-wielding Nazis making a snuff film. It was shocking and sad all at the same time.
10. Thredson's Favorite Snack
You could easily say that Oliver Thredson as a whole was a shocking part of Asylum. While you would be right, there are certain aspects of the real Bloody Face's psyche and behavior that were just plain out there. One example is how he treated Lana as both a mother figure and lover, including going to her for breast milk. It's also worth mentioning that he kissed a corpse while in medical school because it reminded him of his mother.
9. Literally "Riding" People to Death
Out of all the powers a witch could have, one might say that Zoe's "gift" was one of the most unfortunate. After accidentally killing her boyfriend while losing her virginity, we learn that Zoe has the power to quite literally fuck someone's brains out. Not only is it a random thing to even think about, but actually seeing it multiple times on screen takes it to another level.
8. Orgy of Blood
This scene not only shocked audiences, but it got the attention of several family groups that called for FX to pull the show from their programming. After Donovan and The Countess recruit a young couple to come back to the Hotel Cortez with them, they are violently murdered, drained, and left to bleed out as Donovan and The Countess have sex covered in their blood. The fact that it happened during the season premiere definitely gave us something to think about for the rest of the season.
7. Attic of Horror
Madame LaLaurie is a real legend in the sense of what she managed to do during her life. Along with using the blood of slaves as part of her beauty routine, LaLaurie used her attic to torture and dismember slaves. As if that wasn't enough, she tortures a slave found with one of her daughters by chaining him in the attic and placing a hollowed out bull's head over his. The creation of Marie Laveau's precious minotaur is definitely not something that's easily forgotten.
6. Thredson's Necrophilia
Asylum took things to a whole new level with the full reveal of the real Bloody Face. By now we've learned that Oliver Thredson is the real killer after he kidnaps Lana Winters from Briarcliff. But the reveal of what he did to Lana's lover, Wendy, really took a turn for the worst. He explains that he burned Wendy's body, but first used her corpse to practice so he could properly — and comfortably — have sex with Lana. I felt like I needed a hug after that scene, but I also didn't want to be touched.
5. Twisty the Clown
Season: Freak Show
We can all admit to some degree that Twisty the Clown was absolutely terrifying. John Carroll Lynch brought us this demented, murderous character that definitely amplified any fear of clowns anyone already had. Between murdering a young couple enjoying a picnic, kidnapping children, and more murders throughout the town of Jupiter, Twisty definitely made his mark on the season. His heartbreaking backstory was enough to make us feel some sympathy, but not enough to completely lift the fear.
4. Lana Banana's Revenge
It seemed as though Lana Winters couldn't catch a break throughout the entire season of Asylum. Eventually, a time finally came for her to get revenge on those who had wronged her the most. In addition to busting out of Briarcliff and exposing Oliver Thredson as Bloody Face, she shoots him in the head before he can be arrested by police. Decades later, she also shoots her bastard child Johnny the same way she killed his father. I was left in a state of genuine surprise at the end of Asylum and I loved every second of it.
3. The Rubber Man
Season: Murder House
It took awhile for us to find out who was inside of the black rubber BDSM suit, but that was after we saw the rubber man commit some serious acts of violence. In addition to killing and sodomizing a gay couple with a fire poker, this mysterious figure pretends to be Ben Harmon and rapes and impregnates Ben's wife Vivien. We eventually find out who is inside of the rubber suit, but the revelation definitely doesn't make us more comfortable with what has happened.
2. Lana Goes to Med School
In an episode actually named "The Coat Hanger," we already had a warning that things were about to get crazy. After being raped and impregnated by the serial killer Bloody Face and forced back into Briarcliff, Lana decides to take her pregnancy into her own hands. After a series of threats to Bloody Face himself, she gives herself a coat hanger abortion. It's one thing to imply an event of this magnitude, but as soon as we see blood on the floor you are definitely left in a state of shock.
1. Tate's Massacre
Season: Murder House
It's sad that school shootings have been a regular occurrence since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, but this depiction of a school shooting at the hands of Tate Langdon was nothing short of shocking. Our familiarity with these events doesn't make depictions in pop culture any easier to watch. We find out firsthand what happened after Tate and Violet are confronted by the ghosts of the teenagers murdered during the massacre. In the end, Tate murdered 15 of his classmates before returning to the Murder House where he was shot and killed by police. In a series full of things that are somewhat make believe, the reality of an event like this is what makes it the hardest to watch.
"The Killer Santa" - AHS: Asylum
"The Infantata" - AHS: Murder House
"Dandy's Blood Bath" - AHS: Freak Show
"The Bleach Enema" - AHS: Coven
"Bartholomew" - AHS: Hotel
"Shelly and Dr. Arden's Creations" - AHS: Asylum
"Violet is Dead" - AHS: Murder House
"The Devil Violates the Monsignor" - AHS: Asylum
"Donovan Knows When That Hotline Bling" - AHS: Hotel
"Chester and Marjorie" - AHS: Freak Show