Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle is the first film in the series, which is about the Asian stoners looking for their favorite fast food, despite some misadventures. This film was released in 2004.
Investment banker Harold Lee (John Cho) is persuaded by his colleagues Billy and JD to do their work as they leave for the weekend. Elsewhere, Kumar Patel (Kal Penn) attends a medical school interview at the behest of his father but intentionally botches it to avoid gaining a place. Arriving home, Harold meets his neighbor Maria (Paula Garcés) and is pestered with attraction, but is unable to admit his feelings for her. After smoking marijuana with Kumar and seeing an advertisement for White Castle, the pair decide to get hamburgers to satisfy their hunger. Traveling to the location of the nearest White Castle, the pair find it has been replaced by "Burger Shack" but are informed that there is another White Castle in Cherry Hill.
When Kumar begins to become sober, he suggests stopping at Princeton University to buy marijuana. Kumar buys marijuana from a student named Bradley (Dov Tiefenbach) while Harold deals with the attention of Korean students admirable of his job. After smoking more marijuana together, Harold and Kumar are discovered by a campus security guard and forced to flee, losing their bag of marijuana. While the guards chase the pair, they discover Bradley's own marijuana and have him arrested. Harold and Kumar resume their drive, and Kumar pulls over to urinate. He leaves the car door open, allowing a raccoon to sneak in. It bites Harold, who convinces Kumar to take him to a hospital where Kumar's father and brother work. Kumar steals ID badges from his father and brother to obtain medical marijuana, but is mistaken for his brother and forced to perform surgery on a gunshot victim. After Kumar treats the man's wounds almost effortlessly, the patient tells them how to reach White Castle and the duo continues their quest.
On the road, Kumar spots Maria. He decides to get her attention so Harold can talk to her, but Harold panics and presses the accelerator, causing the car to crash into a ditch. They are rescued by Randy, a heavily-disfigured tow-truck driver nicknamed "Freakshow" (Christopher Meloni). He takes them to his house to repair their car and says that they can make themselves at home and have sex with his wife. Harold and Kumar are propositioned by Freakshow's surprisingly alluring wife (Malin Åkerman), but after Freakshow suggests a foursome, Harold and Kumar flee in disgust. Noticing a hitchhiker along the road, Kumar decides to stop and pick him up. The hitchhiker is Neil Patrick Harris, who is high on ecstasy. When Harold and Kumar head into a convenience store to get directions, Harris drives away in Harold's car. Consequently, the duo are suddenly pestered and harassed by a racist police officer, and Harold, in an attempt to punch Kumar due to his growing antagonization of the policeman, accidentally strikes the officer instead.
In jail, Harold sees Bradley being released and his stash confiscated. Kumar fakes a 911 call to draw the police away before breaking into the station to free Harold. As the police return, Harold and Kumar again flee, taking Bradley's stash. The pair encounter an escaped cheetah and, after smoking marijuana with it, ride it. Harold and Kumar find a hot dog restaurant and see their neighbors Goldstein (David Krumholtz) and Rosenberg (Eddie Kaye Thomas) eating hot dogs and looking happy. Harold decides he wants the feeling of satisfaction from achieving their goal. After encountering a group of sport punks who routinely harass the pair, Harold and Kumar steal their truck. A police officer spots the speeding truck and gives pursuit. They briefly elude the officer but become trapped at the edge of a cliff. Spotting the White Castle below, Harold and Kumar use a hang glider from the truck to reach their destination. The pair place their orders but find they have no money. Harris appears, apologizes for his actions and provides them with cash for their meal and for repairs to Harold's car.
Kumar realizes he wants to be a doctor, but is afraid of conforming to the stereotype of Indians becoming doctors. As Kumar is talking Harold notices his co-workers pull up with two women and becomes angry because they said they had to work with clients that night but in reality were out partying. He confronts them for leaving their work to him, and threatens to get them fired and humiliated if it happens again. After returning to their apartment building they encounter Maria in the hallway, waiting for the elevator. Harold professes his feelings for her and they kiss. She informs Harold that she is leaving to visit Amsterdam but that they will talk when she returns ten days later. Kumar convinces Harold to go with him to Amsterdam to pursue Maria, reminding him that marijuana is legal in the Netherlands, leading to the events for the second film: Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay.
- John Cho as Harold Lee
- Kal Penn as Kumar Patel
- Paula Garcés as Maria Perez
- Neil Patrick Harris as Neil Patrick Harris
- David Krumholtz as Goldstein
- Eddie Kaye Thomas as Rosenberg
- Brooke D'Orsay as Clarissa
- Christopher Meloni as Randy "Freakshow"
- Ryan Reynolds as the Male Nurse
- Fred Willard as Dr. Willoughby
- Robert Tinkler as J.D.
- Anthony Anderson as the Burger Shack Employee
- Siu Ta as Cindy Kim
- Malin Åkerman as Liane, Freakshow's wife
- Dov Tiefenbach as Bradley Thomas
- Gary Anthony Williams as Tarik Jackson
- Gary Archibald as Nathaniel Brooks
- Craig Stevens as Ralph
- Jamie Kennedy as Creepy Guy (uncredited)
- This is the first installment of the Harold & Kumar film.
- Although there was such restaurant as Burger Shack in reality, it was made different in the film.
- The Burger Shack of the film has a similar concept with the real life Burger King.