McDonald's career has spanned all aspects of theatre, film and television, making him one of Australia's most well known personalities. Some of his most popular film roles were in Rabbit-Proof Fence, Moulin Rouge, Mr Accident, Struck by Lightning, Wills & Burke, The Pirate Movie, The Picture Show Man, and Picnic at Hanging Rock. His many theatre credits include Laughter on the 23rd Floor, After the Ball, Much Ado About Nothing, Emerald City, Little Shop of Horrors, Sugar Babies and Stones in His Pockets.
He received a Gold Logie for his role as Norman Gunston and was nominated at the AFI Awards for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for The Pirate Movie. In 1998 he was honored as a National Treasure.