Hulce's first film role was in the James Dean-influenced film 9/30/55 in 1977. His next was in the highly popular National Lampoon's Animal House (1978). In 1984, he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance as Mozart in Amadeus, losing to his co-star, F. Murray Abraham. Other films include Echo Park (1986), Slam Dance (1987), Shadow Man (1988), Dominick and Eugene (1988), Parenthood (1989), The Inner Circle (1991), Fearless (1993), Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994), and The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996) (as the voice of the protagonist Quasimodo). He had bit parts in the recent movies Jumper (2008) and Stranger Than Fiction (2006). He also played 1960s civil rights activist Michael Schwerner in the 1990 TV-movie Murder in Mississippi.
Hulce produced the film adaptation of Michael Cunningham's A Home