When you think of one of the most versatile actors of the last twenty plus years, what are some of the first names you think of? For me, one of them is William H. Macy. While many younger folks like me probably know him for his iconic role of Frank Gallagher in the Shameless cast on Showtime, he’s known for many other amazing roles that you should check out as soon as possible.
From Fargo to The Cooler, these are some of the best William H. Macy movies and TV shows that are streaming right now - or, you can find them available to rent.
Shameless (2011 - 2021)
The Gallagher family is one you don’t want to mess around with. In Shameless, we follow this South Side of Chicago clan through their daily issues as they try to just survive in the city, make a living, graduate school, or just try not to get arrested - but a Gallagher will do what a Gallagher does.
As one of the best shows on Showtime, Shameless is truly iconic in every sense of the word, and that includes William H. Macy’s portrayal of Frank, the family patriarch. Frank is a piece of human garbage, and William H. Macy knocked it out of the park for more than a decade, earning nominations for Primetime Emmy Awards. If shows about dysfunctional families are your favorite, you should definitely check out Shameless.
This iconic Coen Brothers film is one you shouldn’t miss. Fargo, starring William H. Macy and Frances McDormand, is about a man who comes up with a kidnapping scheme in order to pay off his many debts. However, the plot goes south when a dedicated police chief begins to investigate the death of a state trooper.
I feel like this is one of those films you really want to go into knowing nothing. William H. Macy received tons of acclaim for his role as Jerry Lundegaard, and while he had plenty of work beforehand, many people (including myself) know him from Fargo. Murder, mystery, and black comedy galore. Definitely watch Fargo, and then learn some behind the scenes facts about the film.
Boogie Nights (1997)
Ready for a comedy-drama filled with stars? Boogie Nights is a film that tells the story of a dishwasher who begins starring in pornographic films. Over time, he becomes a huge star within the industry, but fame also has its consequences, and slowly, his world starts to fall apart.
I think what I love the most about this film is that it’s just so funny. Everyone works so well off of each other. William H. Macy rocks it in his role of “Little Bill” Thompson and provides some truly funny moments, but the whole Boogie Nights cast is just so perfect. The film was nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Screenplay, so you know that it’s going to be a great story.
Happy, Texas (1999)
This comedy is a hidden gem. Happy, Texas follows a pair of prisoners who somehow escape and end up in a little Texas town, and get mistaken for a gay couple. Seeing the advantage of the situation, they decide to use this cover in order to plan their next heist.
William H. Macy is plays the sheriff, Harry, in the small town of Happy, and I have to say he’s the best part of this film. While there are many funny moments, I can’t quite get over his portrayal of Happy, as it’s so out there and funny that you can’t help but love it. Plus, the sheriff's storyline always makes me chuckle.
Oleanna, starring William H. Macy and Debra Eisenstadt, is based on the play of the same name, telling the story of a young student who goes to speak with her teacher about a grade she received, but even when the professor decides to help her, misunderstandings and bad communication lead to his downfall when she accuses him of sexual assault.
While Oleanna is not a very well-known film of Macy’s, I think it deserves far more praise. Since it’s only Macy and Eisenstadt in the film, we are fully able to see their dramatic prowess, and their acting is just amazing. They hold our attention so well that you’ll have trouble tearing your eyes away for even a single second.
ER was a very popular long-running drama that focused on the fictional County General Hospital, following the daily lives of its doctors, nurses, staff, and everyone else as they worked in this emergency facility in Chicago.
ER was one of those shows that made medical series like Grey’s Anatomy possible, and throughout the years, there were many stars that guest-starred on it. But William H. Macy wasn’t just a guest - he was a recurring character, and appeared on the show several times as Dr. David Morgenstern.
While he was in the show pretty regularly as a recurring guest at first, he stepped back after Season 4, then returned to the role for the fifteenth season. It’s certainly one of his more diverse characters, and picturing him as a doctor is always weird now after seeing him as Frank Gallagher, but that just shows how skillful of an actor he is.
The Cooler (2003)
Now this is a William H. Macy movie you can’t miss. The Cooler is all about a lonely man who works as a successful gambling jinx at a Las Vegas casino. But, when he meets a woman and begins falling in love, it affects his performance, so his boss decides to end the romance.
The Cooler was critically acclaimed when it was released for not only its story but the acting from all parties, specifically Alec Baldwin, who portrayed Macy’s boss in the film. However, William H. Macy as a leading man never tires me, and he was excellent as Bernie from the very beginning, making me want to watch him to do better and succeed in life.
If you’re looking for a great crime film, check out Homicide. This movie, starring William H. Macy and Joe Mantegna, tells the story of a homicide detective and his partner who get tangled up in a deeper case that extends into the detective’s own heritage, changing his life forever.
I sort of look at Homicide as a “by the book basics” crime movie, because it feels exactly like the kind of film you’d show someone if you want them to get into crime movies because it's not too intense. However, the real draw in this movie for me is Macy’s excellent acting alongside Mantegna, and their awesome chemistry as detectives. Plenty of twists and turns for you to enjoy, too.
If you’re looking to cry, Room is the movie to watch. Starring Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay, this story tells the tale of Jack, a boy who is cared for by his mother, who was locked away in a shed before having him, and hasn’t seen her family for seven years. Soon, she finds a way out, and the boy gets to explore the world for the first time.
While William H. Macy isn’t the main star of this film, his portrayal of Robert Newsome, Joy Newsome’s father, broke my heart in the best way, if that makes sense. His acting was so phenomenal and shows the true terror that a parent feels when their child is taken from them; the regret, the shame - every emotion you could think of, William H. Macy portrayed perfectly. It’s definitely one of his best acting performances ever.
Pleasantville is a teen dramedy that follows every teenager’s worst nightmare - somehow ending up in a 1950s TV show set in the Midwest, where everyone looks to be absolutely perfect, but there are dark secrets.
This whole film is just great from start to finish. William H. Macy, in another great supporting role, plays George Parker, the father of the two main characters, and is an integral part of the story that pushes characters forward. The movie itself was also great for many actor’s careers, including Tobey Maguire, Reese Witherspoon, and more. Check it out if you’ve never seen it before.
Last but not least, we have Magnolia. This epic drama with a large ensemble cast is all about the idea of happiness, forgiveness, and reconciliation, following several different stories that intersect in the San Fernando Valley.
While a big star of this film was Tom Cruise, who was nominated for an Academy Award for his work, everyone in this large ensemble cast is truly amazing, including William H. Macy. His role as Donnie Smith, otherwise known as “Quiz Kid,” was one of the best stories of the film, showing how money isn’t the key to happiness and finding people who truly care for you is. It’s just an all-around great film with a story that’s top tier.
William H. Macy has done so many other great movies, including Mystery Men, Focus, and Thank You For Smoking, but these are just some of my personal favorites. Maybe after today, you’ll have found a new favorite movie or TV show that stars the talented actor - and keep an eye out for him on the Hulu series, The Dropout.
Your Daily Blend of Entertainment News
A self-proclaimed nerd and lover of Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire, Alexandra Ramos is a Content Producer at CinemaBlend. She first started off working in December 2020 as a Freelance Writer after graduating from the Pennsylvania State University with a degree in Journalism and a minor in English. She primarily works in features for movies, TV, and sometimes video games. (Please don't debate her on The Last of Us 2, it was amazing!) She is also the main person who runs both our daily newsletter, The CinemaBlend Daily, and our ReelBlend newsletter.