A well-loved Stoner Flick with elements of classic Screwball Comedy, Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle (known as Harold and Kumar Get the Munchies in some countries that do not have White Castles) captivated audiences in 2004 with its simple premise and the wild hilarity that comes with trying to accomplish said premise.
Harold Lee (John Cho) and Kumar Patel (Kal Penn) are two New Jersey natives with problems. Harold is an uptight investment banker who is taken advantage of by his douchebag co-workers, tormented by racist extreme sports enthusiasts, and cannot work up the courage to talk to his hot neighbor Maria; Kumar is being pressured by his dad to attend medical school when he would rather relax and smoke a bowl.
After getting high and seeing a commercial for White Castle, the duo decide to travel to the nearest White Castle in Cherry Hill for burgers. Unfortunately for them problems—some caused by their own actions, most by events outside of their control—arise to stop Harold and Kumar from reaching their goal.
Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle is notable for taking what were normally the ethnic sidekick character types of most teen stoner comedy flicks and making them the stars. As such, the movie gets a lot of mileage out of making fun of ethnicities and other people's perceptions of different races.
The movie is also notable for bringing Neil Patrick Harris back into the spotlight. Playing a womanizing, Ecstasy-addicted version of himself for a couple of scenes, audiences were reminded that good ol' NPH can do things besides Doogie Howser. Studios quickly picked up on that, and the rest is history.
This movie was followed by two sequels, Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay in 2008, and A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas in 2011. Please put tropes appropriate to those movies on their pages.
It is entirely unrelated to Harold and Maude.
This movie contains examples of:
- Accent Upon The Wrong Syllable: Everyone pronounces Kumar as "KU-mar", whereas it’s actually pronounced "ku-MAR".
- Accidental Truth: When Harold confronts his jackass co-workers at the White Castle, he threatens to tell their officemates that they both got gonorrhea from a prostitute in Atlantic City. As H&K exit, Kumar asks if they do actually have VD, Harold goes "Beats me." But from the looks on their faces, he managed to guess quite accurately...
- Adam Westing: Neil Patrick Harris as a crazed, perverted, drug-addled, incredibly heterosexual Former Child Star version of himself.
- Advertised Extra: On the poster, Freakshow's wife, Liane, appears despite appearing for a short time in the actual film.
- Aerith and Bob: In the title, and mocked repeatedly, to Kumar's frustration.
- Affectionate Parody: Of the typical Buddy Picture, by exaggerating every single trope and having a world of extremely bizarre events... in New Jersey.
- Air-Vent Passageway: Kumar breaks into a police station where Harold is being held to bust him out. He soon finds himself stuck inside, but the vent breaks beneath him and he falls out.
- Androcles' Lion: Double Subverted. Despite Harold's protests, the titular pair picks up a hitchhiker that turns out to be Neil Patrick Harris, borderline crazy from drugs, who ends up stealing their car, which only adds on to the problems they were already facing trying to get to White Castle. In the end, when they finally arrive at White Castle, Harold realizes he has no money (he was unknowingly robbed), so Neil, who's also there, pays for their meal.
- Anthropomorphic Vice: 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.
- Artistic License – Biology: Cheetahs don't roar, they're rarely aggressive toward humans, and there is no way two grown men of normal size could ride one (which weighs on average about 140 lbs). Possibly justified in that they are so high, they might be imagining the cheetah part.
- Artistic License – Geography: There are a large amount of White Castles in and around the areas that Harold and Kumar visited in New Jersey at the time the movie was made. But of course there would be no movie if they just went to the closest White Castle instead of going through their many misadventures prior to achieving their goal.
- 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-addicted, car-stealing womanizer.
Harold: Wasn't that just the TV show?
- In a bit of Actor Allusion, he mentions that he was able to perform appendectomies at age 14.
- 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 their work for them.
- 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.
- The Atoner: Neil Patrick Harris admits that it was a dick move that he stole Harold's car just to pick up chicks. Thus, he pays the full price of Harold and Kumar's belated munch, and also pays for any damages done to the car (including some "love stains" on the seats).
- Bait-and-Switch: After Harold gets knocked off the cheetah and falls unconscious, his subsequent Disney Acid Sequence ends with Maria erotically licking him. One would assume this means the cheetah is the one licking him in reality, but it’s actually Kumar.
- Beleagured Coworker: Harold to his lazy party animal coworkers.
- Best Known for the Fanservice: In-universe. Rosenberg and Goldstein watch The Gift for the sole purpose of seeing Katie Holmes' breasts.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Harold. After spending a whole night of things going horribly wrong for him, finally stands up to his co-workers when he meets them at White Castle. Possibly, Neil Patrick Harris as well.
- The Big Damn Kiss: At the end, Harold finally gets to kiss Maria, however both stop once Maria brings up how they barely know each other. But then they go back to kissing almost immediately anyway.
- Big "NO!": In-universe. The anti-marijuana ad where one of the teen stoners screams out the other is about to shoot himself with a rifle.
- Bigot with a Badge: The film has an example that is largely Played for Laughs and is even loosely based on Kal Penn's own experiencenote . Harold spends some time in jail with a black professor of literature who was arrested for a crime committed in a different city. Later, the titular characters encounter another black man, a civil rights attorney, who was asleep in bed when a non-existent crime was reported, for which he nevertheless got arrested. One of the movie's stingers shows the sketches the police released of Harold and Kumar, and they're over the top East Asian and Indian caricatures.
- Bilingual Bonus: The movie poster in Harold's dream has the tagline "There is a pinche puto in all of us". "Pinche puto" would probably be best translated as "fucking pussy".
- Binge Montage: It's the climax of the movie. While stoned, Harold and Kumar each eat 30 sliders, with 5 large orders of French Fries and 4 large drinks — Harold has Cherry Cokes, while Kumar insists on Diet Cokes.Harold: I am so hungry, I could eat... like, twenty of those burgers, man.Kumar: Dude, fuckin' I will see your twenty burgers and raise you five orders of fries.
- Black Is Bigger in Bed: Harold gets locked up in jail with Tarik, a 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!"
- Brick Joke:
- 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.
- The beef jerky Harold snagged at Rosenberg and Goldstein's ends up
- Brilliant, but Lazy: Kumar, who got a perfect score on the MCAT and expertly performs emergency surgery despite not being trained. But he prefers to spend most of his time getting high and deliberately flunks all his medical school interviews.
- Bullying the Dragon: The black men that the racist police arrest and harass turn out to be a professor at Rutgers and an attorney which lead to the police losing their jobs and getting arrested themselves.
- But Now I Must Go: Neil Patrick Harris in the end.
- Butt-Monkey: Harold. Exploited at work because of his ethnicity, has parking spaces stolen from him by Extreme Sports Punks, 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..
- The Cameo: Several.
- Ryan Reynolds shows up as a nurse with a fetish for capable surgeons.
- Christopher Meloni as tow-truck driver Freakshow.
- Malin Åkerman as Freakshow's wife.
- Anthony Anderson as the Burger Shack employee who... makes the special sauce extra special.
- Jamie Kennedy is the creepy guy who takes a piss next to Kumar.
- Gary Anthony Williams is the black guy in jail for nothing, literally.
- Fred Willard as the medical school dean who interviewed Kumar.
- And of course, Neil Patrick Harris.
- Can't Get Away with Nuthin': Harold gets fined for jaywalking just when he puts one foot down on the road.
- Cannot Spit It Out: Harold is unable to confess his love for Maria until the very end.
- Captain Ersatz: The Extreme Sports Punks and the foreign twins are based on the team of jocks and the twins from Danny Leiner's previous movie Dude, Where's My Car?.
- Casting Gag:
- Kal Penn, playing an unrepentant stoner with a craving for White Castle sliders, has said that he actually has zero interest in marijuana and has never tried it. He is also a vegetarian, with the film crew making his sliders vegetarian. On top of that, Penn is also gay, although he did not publicly come out until 17 years after the film was released.
- Neil Patrick Harris, an openly gay man, as a deviant over-the-top heterosexual. To be fair, he did not come out as gay until over 2 years later.
- Celebrity Paradox:
- Early on, Rosenberg and Goldstein watch the 2000 film The Gift so they can see the scene where Katie Holmes appears topless. David Krumholtz, who plays Goldstein, starred alongside Katie Holmes in the 1997 film The Ice Storm.
- Neil Patrick Harris famously plays a highly exaggerated caricature of himself. In Real Life, Harris' role in this film was partly responsible for reviving his acting career in the mid-2000s—making you wonder what his career looks like in a world where he never starred in the Harold & Kumar movies.
- Character Action Title: The title features not only the titular characters, but the plot as well.
- Chekhov's Gag: Kumar's trimmed pubes.
- Chekhov's News: 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.
- Contrived Coincidence: Numerous, and often lampshaded. The biggest examples are the extreme sports bros.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.
- Though he's not actually a cop, the gate guard at Harold's office counts. He lets Billy and J.D. tear out of the parking lot, leaving the gate-thing open, and gives them a thumbs-up, but forces Harold to stop and show his work ID.
- Crashing Dreams: Harold falls unconscious and dreams of his love interest licking his cheek. Instead of an animal, he awakens to find Kumar licking him because Kumar "thought doing some gay shit might wake him up."
- 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 horn in on his hot British twin action.
- Decoy Protagonist: For about 5 seconds. We're introduced to Billy (still pining over a 6-month-old breakup) and his bro-ey friend who wants to go have a night on the town. ... Then they ditch all their work on real protagonist Harold and disappear until they guys finally get to White Castle.
- Delinquents: The Extreme Sports Punks.
- Determinator: They will stop at nothing to get those burgers.
- Didn't Think This Through: The newsreel in the credits reveals that the racist police officers have all been arrested for their crimes, most likely because they were too stupid to be subtle with their abuse and because they victimized two innocent, high-profile African-Americans (a college professor and a lawyer) without any evidence or just cause, other than the fact that were both black like a robbery suspect they were after.
- Disney Acid Sequence: Harold's dream after being knocked unconscious by the tree branch.
- Dissimile:Kumar: How were Katie Holmes' tits?
Goldstein: You know the Holocaust?
Goldstein: Picture the opposite of that!
- 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 endured. Harold gets a better ending than Kumar, as he gets to win over Maria and he gets back at Billy and J.D. for dumping all their work on him for the weekend.
- Easily Forgiven: Harold easily lets Billy and J.D. off the hook by simply warning them not to dump all their accounting work on him again or else he'll report them to their boss Berenson. Also, because Harold lost all of Billy's paperwork, Billy might get punished or even fired by Berenson for failing to meet deadlines, while J.D. might get fired for dumping all of his work on Harold.
- 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.
- Everyone Has Standards: Harold and Kumar may be slobby stoners, but even they can't handle the "Battleshits" game the two hot British chicks play.
- Failed a Spot Check: Harold misses it when a raccoon climbs into the car over the driver's seat while sitting in the passenger seat.
- Fan Disservice
- Two hot college girls with English accents? Fantasy completely ruined when the boys overhear them playing a game of "Battleshits".
- The three-way the guys are going to have with Freakshow's hot wife? Fantasy completely ruined when Freakshow offers to join them - and starts undressing.
- Food and Animal Attraction: The cheetah finds Harold's beef jerky.
- 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 Harold and Kumar actually going to White Castle.
- During his first elevator ride with Maria, Harold stands there, twitching.note Maria glances over at him and gives a little smile. Clearly she knows he has a crush and thinks it's cute.
- "And in this week's top story, a cheetah escaped from the zoo."
- Freudian Slip:Mr. Willoughby: Get out! Bernadette, show this young man to the door! And please bring some fresh diarrhe—dry towels!
- The Ghost: Berenson, who is Harold's boss. Despite not appearing on-screen, he has at least some importance to the plot since Harold had to threaten getting Billy and J.D. fired for foisting their accounting work all on him for the weekend by reporting them to Berenson. Lucky for them, Harold chooses not to.
- 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.
- Gonk: Freakshow really earns his name. He's not a pleasant guy to look at.Harold: Dude! He's sitting right there.
Kumar: Don't worry, he can't hear us with all that disgusting pus in his ear.
[close up of pus and boils... lingers]
Freakshow: I heard every word you said.
- 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..."
- Gravity Is a Harsh Mistress: The raccoon dangles in mid-air for a bit when Harold flings it out the car window.
- Hero of Another Story:
- Rosenberg and Goldstein go to the rockin' Asian party at Stanford, pick up Cindy Kim and another girl, and ultimately end up at Hot Dog Heaven.
- Though they aren't heroes by any definition, Billy and J.D. count as they appear to have gone through your typical "dude-bro"-style adventure, both gaining women, before Harold confronts them. (This is part of the joke; see P.O.V. Sequel.)
- 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 Punks are apparently fond of cheesy pop ballads.
- 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.Kumar: ''You said we could have sex with her!
Freakshow: I MOST CERTAINLY DID NOT!
Harold: [whimpering]you said it![/whimper]
Freakshow: Whoops, my bad! [rips off jumpsuit, revealing banana hammock] Who wants the first reach around?
- His Name Really Is "Barkeep": After Harold and Kumar steal the Extreme Sports Punks' car, Cole, the leader, addresses his friend as "Extreme Sports Punk #1". And that's his name in the credits.Extreme Sports Punk #1: Dude... that is so not extreme.
Cole: I know, Extreme Sports Punk #1. I know.
- How Did You Know? I Didn't: Implied when Harold confronts his asshole co-workers. He threatens to tell the whole office about them getting an STD from a hooker in Atlantic City, then admits to Kumar he didn't really know if they did in fact have one. But given the looks on their faces, it seems Harold was fairly accurate.
- Humble Goal: The entire point.
- Hypocritical Humor:
- Rosenberg and Goldstein comment on how Harold and Kumar seem to be gay, then Rosenberg lends Goldstein their shofar bong, asking "You wanna suck on this?"
- "Bro?! I'm not your "bro", bro!"
- 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..."
- Identical Stranger: Harold and Kumar see two guys that look just like them get beaten up and later encounter them at the hospital.
- Imagine Spot: Two in the film.
- Early on, we get a short scene of Harold being incredibly cool, suave, flirty, charming with Love Interest Maria. In reality, he just stares awkwardly at his mail.
- Kumar gets one in the second act when, while rescuing Harold at the police station, he turns around and sees a giant bag of weed. He then imagines a life-long, romantic relationship with it, including dancing, going down on it, being physically abusive with it...
- Inconvenient Hippocratic Oath: Although not yet even a medical student, let alone an actual physician, Kumar in the first film plays this straight, like pretty much every medically-trained fugitive in fiction. Then he asks the nurse to get him a big bag of medical marijuana. Then he saves the patient's life. Then he asks the patient for directions to White Castle.
- Interchangeable Asian Cultures: In-Universe, Harold (who is Korean, like actor John Cho) is repeatedly mistaken for Chinese/Japanese.
- Iron Butt Monkey: Tarik, whose response to his misfortunes is to Turn the Other Cheek.Plus, I've got a big penis, so that's okay.
- Ironic Echo: "Thank you, come again!"
- 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.
- Just as our heroes start their journey, Kumar forgets his cell phone, but decides they've already gone too far to go back. They aren't even on the elevator yet.
- Jerkass: The racists cops and the Extreme Sports Punks who spend the whole movie harassing minorities. Also, Harold's co-workers Billy and J.D. who dump their workload on Harold and claim he'll have fun for the weekend while they go out.
- Jerk Jock: The Extreme Sports Punks.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Kumar might be selfish, lazy, and irresponsible, but he truly cares about Harold. Also Neil Patrick Harris, who after stealing their car to go on a sex-crazed joyride pays for Harold and Kumar's White Castle meal as well as damages to their car.
- Joisey: The setting. They drive through the whole state over the course of the movie, and hit up most of the stereotypes, from crime-ridden Newark, to the hillbilly woods, to the vast strip malls.
- Large Ham: Ryan Reynolds is clearly enjoying the shit out of himself.
- Laser-Guided Karma:
- The Extreme Sports Punks all get arrested in the end and accidentally framed as massive stoners on top of all their Extreme Sports Douchebaggery.
- Billy and J.D. are told off and cock-blocked by Harold in an epic speech.
- Loser stoner Bradley Thomas doesn't have to go to jail, but he does lose his giant bag of weed.
- The racist cops who keep arresting the nearest black man, regardless of whether he was awake at the time of the alleged crime or even in the correct city are arrested and sued because they arrested a notable professor and a goddamn attorney.
- "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.
- Lethal Eatery: Burger Shack. The burgers are poorly made by negligent cooks and contain animal semen.
- Let Us Never Speak of This Again: After Harold and Kumar flee from Freakshow's home.
- The Load: Kumar is responsible for just about everything that goes wrong over the course of the night, other than the scene where Harold slams on the gas pedal because he's scared of talking to Maria.Harold: This whole night, this whole freaking night is your fault!
- Lovable Sex Maniac: Neil Patrick Harris, oh so much.
- Magical Negro: Played for laughs with Tarik, who gives Harold some inspiring advice. There's even a point where Harold flashes back to Tarik's advice and his face looms up in the corner of the screen.
- Magical Jew: Comically subverted. When Harold complains that he needs to go to a hospital for a raccoon bite, Rosenberg lays a hand on his arm and gently says, "You should go to Beth Israel."
- 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 were not familiar with White Castle. 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.
- Ironically, it was mostly filmed in Canada.
- Meaningful Name: Rosenburg and Goldstein, except they're not dead.
- Despite Kumar deriving from the Sanskrit word "kumara", meaning prince or child of Skanda the Hindu God of War (also an epithet for Kartikeya, son of Shiva), in Persian ("qomar"), Turkish ("kumar"), and Arabic ("khumar"), his name would mean abstinence syndrome. In other words, a hangover. It has also become the slang word for narcotic smoke in some regions.
- 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.
- Misunderstood Loner with a Heart of Gold: Freakshow, somewhat. The guys are convinced he's a Serial Killer, but he's actually just a good-hearted weirdo.
- 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. While New Jersey does have scenic cliffs (the Palisades), they're across the Hudson from New York City, while the final destination of Cherry Hill is a suburb of Philly.
- Next Stall Shenanigans: At one point early in the movie, Harold and Kumar are in Princeton University and hide from campus security in the women's bathroom. In two other stalls, a pair of twin sisters are playing a game of "Battleshits", eventually prompting the other duo to run away in disgust.
- 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.Kumar: Hey 'Roldie, check it out! We're on DVD!
Harold: Are you serious?
Kumar: Yeah, look at those options down there.
Harold: Nice! Nice.
- Noodle Incident: After they drive off the road and get a flat.Harold: Where's my spare tire?
Kumar: I dunno.
Kumar: Oh yeaaaah. Dude, remember that time we got really stoned and started throwing shit off that bridge to see if it would float?
Harold: What bridge? I don't remem... what are you talking about?
Kumar: Oh, right, that was with Goldstein. [Beat] We borrowed your car that night. My bad.
- Odd Couple:
- Harold is the neat freak, Kumar is the slob.
- Rosenberg is a far more uptight Woody Allen type who wears a yarmulkeh and a sweater, Goldstien a more laid back college bro guy in a wool cap and a hemp hoody.
- One Crazy Night: Harold and Kumar get the munchies after lighting up and go out to get White Castle burgers. What follows is an epic comic adventure that involves, among other things, a surgery after attempting to get medical marijuana, racist cops, a jailbreak, hang gliding off a cliff, an escaped cheetah, sexy British twins with diarrhea, and Neil Patrick Harris As Himself.
- 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.
- Outside/Inside Slur: Harold talks about being referred to as a twinkie — yellow outside, white inside.
- Politically Incorrect Villain: The cop that harasses them, as well as the extreme sports punks, who are both nasty bigots. Billy and J.D. also count, as they claim that their Asian co-worker (Harold) just loves crunching numbers and he'll love to do their work for them so they just made his weekend.
- 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 Jerkass Designated 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.
- Product Placement: Literally in the title. The whole thing is pretty much a giant commercial for White Castle, and there's also various plugs for sodas and snack products.
- The writers originally included Krispy Kreme, but they refused to be associated with a stoner film.
- White Castle had major promotion for the film, to the point where they gave promotional cups (a first for an R-rated film) as well as turned the parking lot on the Sunset Strip into a White Castle.
- Race Tropes: Most of them Played With and subverted.
- Racial Face Blindness: 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."
- Rage-Breaking Point: Harold hits this after Neil Patrick Harris steals his car. You can actually see the point where he just snaps and completely loses his shit. And that's not even halfway through the night.
- Also with the racist cops.
- 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.
- Rousing Speech: Kumar's speech as they see the White Castle.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.
- Rule of Funny: Really, this is the only justification for why anything happens in these movies. The number of Contrived Coincidences and random events the protagonists go through would be absurdly improbable in Real Life, but the films' inability to take anything seriously allows the audience to accept the absurdity.
- Rust Proof Blood: Averted; Harold gets blood on his shirt after being attacked by a raccoon and the stain has darken later into the film.
- Schoolyard Bully All Grown Up: Kumar accuses a cop of being this, to which the cop happily admits.
- The Scream: Harold when he sees Neil Patrick Harris steal his car.
- Searching the Stalls: Harold and Kumar hide in a stall in the women's bathroom to escape a cop who saw their weed. Unfortunately, they happen to witness the sexy foreign twins having a very unsexy time on the toilet, which disgusts them so much they run out in terror.
- Serial Killer: The boys suspect Freakshow and the creepy guy peeing on a bush next to Kumar of being this.
- Serious Business: White Castle hamburgers. One other fast-food cook wants to burn down his restaurant for them.
- Shameful Strip: Bradley Thomas was for some reason stripped down to his underwear by the police after they arrest him for marijuana possession.
Harold: (to Neil Patrick Harris) Dude, Where's My Car??!
- To another Stoner Flick directed by Danny Leiner:
Kumar: Where's his car, dude?!
- Also to The Joy Luck Club. Kumar dismissively rejects Cindy Kim's party as this.
- During their first scene, the sports enthusiasts yell "Better luck tomorrow!" at Harold, referencing the film Better Luck Tomorrow, another movie John Cho starred in.
- Ryan Reynolds wiping Kumar's brow mirrors the scene in Van Wilder where they perform surgery on the dog-sandwiches together.
- See the poster up there? See the tagline? Heard of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, itself a movie full of stoners?
- Rosenberg and Goldstein are a reference to Hamlet's (or Stoppard's) Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. How's that for an unexpected Genius Bonus?
- In Kumar's Imagine Spot of loving the bag of weed, the scene where he abuses the bag while working at an adding machine parodies a similar scene in Raging Bull.
- The phone booth Kumar points out to Harold is a reference to Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure.
- Word of God says that the British twins are a nod to the Pigeon sisters in The Odd Couple.
- Shown Their Work: The journey is accurate for the most part.
- But there isn't a White Castle in Cherry Hill. At the time of the film, there was one in nearby Pennsauken. The nearest one to Cherry Hill is in Toms River. There is also a White Castle in Jersey City, about 15 minutes from where Harold and Kumar live.
- Not to mention that the real Cherry Hill is a very suburban area with a shopping mall—it's 20 minutes down a major highway from Philadelphianote —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.
- In 2016, a White Castle opened in South Brunswick, which is 15 minutes from New Brunswick.
- A Simple Plan: Two guys want to go to a fast food restaurant; what could be simpler? Apparently, a lot.
- Spiritual Successor: Has been compared to Cheech & Chong.
- Spoiler Title: Just from the title alone, you know that Harold and Kumar will go to White Castle.
- Stoner Flick: One of the most prominent flicks in the genre.
- Take That!: Kumar mocking Harold for liking Sixteen Candles, because of its character Long Duk Dong. The Simpsons also gets one with the use of "Thank you, come again!" by Kumar.
- Tempting Fate: Harold saying early on that he doesn't know how much more he can take. Little does he know their misadventures are just beginning.
- Those Two Guys: Rosenberg and Goldstein, harkening back to one of the original peripheral duos.
- Three-Way Sex: Explicitly offered by Freakshow and his wife.
- 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".
- Toll Booth Antics: Harold and Kumar are stopped at an automated toll booth which doesn't take the change they put into it. After hesitating to go through anyway, they eventually do so after being yelled at by the driver behind them.
- Typecasting: Kumar lampshades and subverts this:Kumar: Well, duh! Just because you're hung like a moose doesn't mean you gotta do porn!
- Turn the Other Cheek: After years of being bullied, Tarik has learned to not get riled up over every jerk that enters his life.
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Freakshow, who is covered in boils (some of which have pus squirting out of them), is married to a rather good-looking woman (played by Malin Akerman). She cites his beautiful singing voice as the reason she fell in love with him.
- Uncomfortable Elevator Moment: This one is uncomfortable because Harold really likes Maria but is too shy to talk to her.
- Unusual Euphemism: When Freakshow's wife asks Harold and Kumar to have sex with her, she says "Come on, give me the double-stuff...".
- Villainous Breakdown: The head racist cop starts shouting racist remarks as he's being dragged away at the end.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Harold and Kumar, best friends who constantly yell at each other.
- 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 movie and decides to give it a shot anyway, but then in the sequel it turns out Kumar chose not to do so, and then the second sequel shows him struggling financially for not having a job.
- 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.
- Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: The racist cop's reaction to Kumar's name.Officer Palumbo: KOO-mar? What is it, like five Os or two Us?Kumar: No, actually, it's one U.Palumbo: Yeah, bullshit...
- Whoopi Epiphany Speech: Played for Laughs with Tarik's speech. Double Subverted later when it inspires Harold to steal the extreme sports punks' car.
- 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?!
- Wilhelm Scream: When Harold is knocked off of the cheetah.