As Himself: Neil Patrick Harris, though it's a subversion as he specifically requested to be credited "as Neil Patrick Harris" instead of "as Himself", so that people didn't think he was actually a drug-sniffing, car-stealing womanizer.
He also claimed to have had sex with Whoopie Goldberg's stand-in while filming Clara's Heart at age 14.
Asian and Nerdy: Harold's co-workers cites this as justification for tricking Harold into doing his work.
Zigzagged with Harold. He's an uptight neat-freak who lets bullies from his office and neighborhood walk all over him. But he's also a stoner and an expert at beer-pong. He later ends up standing up to his bullies and screwing them over magnificently.
Subverted by Cindy Kim and her East Asian Club. They appear to be straight-laced nerds, but turn out to be drug-using party animals.
Bilingual Bonus: The movie poster in Harold's dream has the tag line "There is a pinche puto in all of us". "Pinche puto" would probably be best translated as "fucking pussy".
Black Is Bigger in Bed: Harold gets locked up in jail with a Tauriq, philosophical black man, who is resigned to his fate.
Harold: I don't understand how you can be so calm about all this.
Tarik: Look at me. I'm fat, black, can't dance, and I have two gay fathers. People have been messin' with me my whole life. I learned a long time ago that there's no sense gettin' all riled up every time a bunch of idiots give you a hard time. In the end, the universe tends to unfold as it should. Plus, I have a really large penis. That keeps me happy.
Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: "If you boys'd like to go on inside, get yourself something to drink, worship, fuck my wife, watch TV... anything you want!"
Butt Monkey: Harold. Exploited at work because of his ethnicity, has parking spaces stolen from him by extreme sports enthusiasts, his best friend uses his scissors for manscaping, he gets attacked by a raccoon, Neil Patrick Harris steals his car, he gets arrested for jaywalking (well, admittedly he also unintentionally punched the cop in the face), his laptop gets destroyed, he gets clotheslined by a tree branch while riding a cheetah, and on top of all of that, he's completely unable to talk to the girl he has a crush on. Harold isn't just the Butt Monkey; he's distinctly headed into woobie territory.
The crazy guy in the bushes compliments Kumar's "manscaping", which was mentioned near the beginning of the movie.
The dorky pot dealer that our heroes encounter at Princeton somehow ends up clad only in his underwear in the Muckleburg police station, along with Harold.
Chekhov's Gun: The split-second news report about a cheetah that escaped from the zoo.
Chivalrous Pervert: Harold and Kumar. On the DVD commentary, it's pointed out any other character would come off as sickening/disgusting ogling Freakshow's wife, but because Harold and Kumar are likeable, it doesn't.
Cloud Cuckoolander: Freakshow, in a very creepy religious fanatic/serial killer way. Also, Neil Patrick Harris.
Kumar: "Jesus, these guys are frickin' everywhere!"
Corrupt Cop: The Muckleburg PD, hoo boy. They even respond to a call about a shooting (phoned in by Kumar so he can sneak into the police department and break out Harold), and arrest the nearest black man they can find, who was asleep in his home.
This turns out to be shooting themselves in the foot when the guy turns out to be a high priced lawyer who, after being on the receiving end of overwhelming evidence of police brutality is able to team up with the other black man they wrongfully arrested (who's a college professor) to have all the cops arrested and sue the pants off the department.
Daydream Surprise: Harold talking the girl he has a crush on into hanging out in his apartment. And then back to reality...
Death Glare: The Princeton pot dealer receives one from Kumar after first overcharging him for weed and then trying to hone in on his hot British twin action.
Do You Want to Copulate?: Freakshow innocuously offers his wife to Harold and Kumar. When they subsequently meet her she casually asks them both to fuck her at the same time, prompting a Spit Take from Harold.
Drugs Are Bad: Parodied with the "Marijuana Kills" commercial in the beginning of the movie.
Earn Your Happy Ending: Harold and Kumar are extremely happy to have White Castle burgers after all the crap both of them, particularly Harold, went through.
Even the Guys Want Him: At least two guys show some attraction to Kumar; an old man in the hospital tries to hold his hand, and one of the medics is obviously infatuated.
Fan Disservice: Two hot college girls with English accents? Fantasy completely ruined when the boys overhear them playing a game of "Battleshits".
Food Porn: The White Castle commercial that sends Harold and Kumar on their quest. It even includes sleazy-sounding porn music. There's also the Burger Shack drive-thru guy's description of White Castle burgers.
Foregone Conclusion: Let's face it, you can't make a movie called Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle without actually going to White Castle.
Gilligan Cut: Immediately after Kumar insists Harold doesn't need to go to the hospital, we cut to him sitting in a hospital waiting room.
Also, after Harold insists he won't stop by Cindy Kim's party, we immediately cut to him sitting in her party. Word of God says it's their favorite cut throughout the film.
Good News, Bad News: Harold is knocked unconscious while riding the cheetah through the woods, and when he wakes up, Kumar tells him there's some bad news and worse news. The worse news is that the cheetah took them in the wrong direction of White Castle, whereas the bad news was Harold's laptop had been destroyed. Harold is more upset about his laptop and asks why that wasn't the worse news. Kumar tries to explain that the laptop situation only affected him whereas being taken the wrong way affected them both equally.
Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Kumar swears throughout most of the movie, but when he realizes the cops are after them, he says "Aw, fudge..."
Hidden Depths: The straight-laced Asian nerds like Cindy Kim throw such a wild party Harold and Kumar almost wish they'd stayed.
The ultra macho extreme sports enthusiasts are apparently fond of cheesy '80s pop songs.
Hillbilly Horrors: Parodied/Subverted. Harold and Kumar's car breaks down in the middle of the woods and they are picked up by a creepy, hideous, decrepit truck driver called Freakshow. The scenes play out like a slasher film with Harold and Kumar expecting Freakshow to murder them at any point. It turns out he's actually a well-meaning if loony guy with a surprisingly attractive wife. It gets even weirder when his wife invites them to have a threeway with her, but when Freakshow insists on joining, Harold and Kumar hightail it out of there.
His Name Really Is Barkeep: After Harold and Kumar steal the extreme sports enthusiast' car, Cole, the lead enthusiast, addresses his friend as "Extreme Sports Punk #1".
Identical-Looking Asians: Played for laughs in one scene, as Kumar tries to take Harold out of Cindy Kim's party, he takes a random Asian student aside, saying "This is Harold's understudy, you can do whatever you want with him."
Inconvenient Hippocratic Oath: While a medical student rather than a doctor, Kumar in the first film plays this straight, like pretty much every medically-trained fugitive in fiction.
I've Come Too Far: When Harold gets in a police chase after stealing the skateboarders' car.
Harold: I'm not going back to jail, man. We've come too far.
I Resemble That Remark: As the British twins ask to join Kumar in getting high, the dealer tries to join in, but Kumar puts him down, saying "like they want to go listen to a bunch of Phish records while you read your lame-ass poetry.", prompting him to retort "My poetry's not lame..."
Jerkass: The cops/extreme sports guys. Also, Harold's co-workers, Billy and J.D.
John Barleycorn And Friends: When Kumar is trying to liberate Harold from jail he is distracted by a giant bag of weed at the police station. Kumar immediately forgets about Harold and has an elaborate Dream Sequence where he falls in love with the anthropomorphized bag of weed—then makes love to said anthropomorphized bag of weed—then marries the bag of weed—then is stuck in a miserable squabbling marriage with the bag of weed.
Laser-Guided Karma: The sports enthusiasts and the racist cops all get arrested in the end.
Leave Your Quest Test: Harold and Kumar stand outside Hot Dog Heaven, seeing Rosenberg and Goldstein happily eating together. After all they've been through, Kumar asks Harold if he'd just like to eat there instead of White Castle. Instead, Harold is emboldened by their pleasure, and vows that they will get to White Castle one way or another.
Left the Background Music On: The creepy organ music being played as Harold and Kumar enter Freakshow's home is actually being played by Freakshow's wife.
Manly Tears: What happens when Harold and Kumar actually made it to White Castle and feasted on those tiny, delicious burgers.
Market-Based Title: Known as Harold and Kumar Get the Munchies outside of the US and Canada, because White Castle operates solely within the US, and it can be presumed that most Canadians are familiar with the franchise as well.
And only in the Northeastern and Midwestern US, at that. This left viewers in the South and the West Coast confused, as they didn't know what White Castle was.
Strangely enough, it was screened as Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle in Singapore, the Philippines, Australia, Belgium and Canada, all of which do not have a single WC restaurant (White Castle's management seems to not want to do international franchises).
Actually, White Castle has a line of frozen foods featuring their signature sliders available in grocers and vending machines since 1987. Many people probably didn't know it was an actual restaurant at the time.
The Millstone: Harold's life would be a lot more hassle-free if Kumar wasn't always looking for weed.
Mission from God: Neil Patrick Harris believes he's on one. Harold and Kumar aren't convinced.
Motivational Lie: Kumar persuades Harold to take the hang-glider to White Castle by assuring him he used to hang-glide with his dad. When they finally do, Kumar admits he's never actually hang-glided, which prompts Harold to strangle him after crash-landing.
The Mountains of Illinois: That's quite the New Jersey cliff that Harold and Kumar descend from when they finally find the White Castle.
Nice Character, Mean Actor: Harold and Kumar find out that Neil Patrick Harris is nowhere near as mild-mannered as his onscreen persona.
No Fourth Wall: The DVD menu, where both characters comment on the options available as well as how long the viewer takes to make a selection.
Odd Couple: Harold is the neat freak, Kumar is the slob.
Offscreen Teleportation: When our titular heroes want to cross a street at a crosswalk. Kumar convinces Harold to jaywalk, and Harold checks both directions, to find the road clear on both sides for miles. Then he steps off the sidewalk and a cop car instantly pulls up from just off-screen. Cue Kumar trying to ignore Harold's Death Glare.
P.O.V. Sequel: As noted below, the actors playing the main characters were Funny Foreigner characters in other gross-out comedies and the movie is sort of a perspective shift to focus on them; Harold's coworkers are a parody of the Jerk AssDesignated Heroes of most of these films and amusingly, all of their adventures happen offscreen. Similarly, the two have a pair of even nerdier (and Jewish) friends, Rosenberg and Goldstein who also have adventures off-screen, alluding to the play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead which is a famous example of this.
Rant Inducing Slight / "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Both Harold and Kumar. Kumar gets his first when an asshole cop gives Harold a ticket for jaywalking after putting one foot down off the curb; Harold's comes when he runs into his co-workers at the White Castle, catching them lying about an "important business meeting" as an excuse to make Harold do all their work.
Reality Subtext: Kumar's rant was inspired by a similar rant Kal Penn gave a parking officer when he was ticketed after getting back to his car just when the meter expired.
Repeat Cut: When Harold loses it right after Neil Patrick Harris steals his car.
Rock Bottom: Immediately after complaining that he doesn't know how much more he can take, Harold gets attacked by a raccoon that snuck into the car.
Harold: Forget it! I'm not risking my life over a bunch of hamburgers, man.
Kumar: So you think this is just about the burgers, huh? Let me tell you, it's about far more than that. Our parents came to this country, escaping persecution, poverty, and hunger. Hunger, Harold. They were very, very hungry. They wanted to live in a land that treated them as equals, a land filled with hamburger stands. And not just one type of hamburger, okay? Hundreds of types with different sizes, toppings, and condiments. That land was America. America, Harold! America! Now, this is about achieving what our parents set out for. This is about the pursuit of happiness. This night... is about the American dream. Dude, we can stay here, get arrested, and end our hopes of ever going to White Castle. Or we can take that hang glider and make our leap towards freedom. I leave the decision up to you.
But there isn't one in Cherry Hill. The closest is 1 1/2 hours away (there are a couple of Chick-Fil-As though).
Not to mention that the real Cherry Hill is a very suburban area—it's 20 minutes down a major highway from Philadelphianote Also, see this map◊ on Joisey. It's in the "Happy White Families" in the southwestern section, right next to Collingswood.—it is nowhere near as rural as depicted in the film.
There is, however, a White Castle in New Brunswick (still open).
The way Freakshow and his wife talk about Jesus and church would suggest they are from a low Protestant church. Thus they probably wouldn't have many pictures and statuettes of Jesus or Mary.
A Simple Plan: Two guys want to go to a fast food restaurant; what could be simpler? Apparently, a lot.
Spit Take: Harold after Freakshow's wife asks if they're going to fuck her.
The Stoner: Almost every character is this, from the titular characters. Even the studious Asians.
A Threesome Is Hot: Played straight — the guys are initially hesitant have sex with Freakshow's wife because it's a 2M/1F situation. While they debate whether or not to accept, Freakshow offers to make it a Four Way, which causes them to flee in terror.
Token Minority: parodied by posters advertising the first movie as starring "That Asian guy from American Pie" and "That Indian guy from Van Wilder".
Walking the Earth: The fate of Neil Patrick Harris, who is going "wherever God takes me".
"Well Done, Son" Guy: Kumar isn't interested in being a doctor like his father is, despite having perfect MCATs. He even uses his medical textbooks as paper to make joints. He has an epiphany at the end of the first film and decides to give it a shot anyway.
What the Hell, Hero?: Neil Patrick Harris attempts to avert this at the end of the first movie by approaching Harold and Kumar, apologising for his role in the previous night's events, and offering to pay for their breakfast. They then launch into this trope anyway, leaving him to irritably point out that he's aware of the dick move he pulled, hence the apology-and-offer-to-buy-their-breakfast.
Also $200 for Harold's car. He made some "love stains" in the back.
Wild Teen Party: Double subverted by Cindy Kim and her East Asian Club. Their meeting is initially a boring geekfest by a bunch of nerds, but the actual party is soon revealed to be an unrestrained frenzy of drugs and sex.
Kumar: Dude, I'm thinking you really screwed up by not coming to this party. Harold:I screwed up?!