‘The Greatest Hits’ Ending Explained & Film Summary: Does Harriet Change The Past?


For most of The Greatest Hits, my mind was going, “Romance is back, baby!” and boy am I here for it? I spent a lot of time last year watching grief-themed horror movies, and it’s quite a breath of fresh air to see the same theme addressed in the form of a romance, although it’s quite the rocky premise that switches between being creepy and cute. I’m sorry; I must’ve gotten carried away with the feelings of the film. The Greatest Hits follows the story of Harriet, who lost her boyfriend about two years ago, and somehow, she’s traveling through time when she listens to certain songs. Adorable! I know, but it is also a little bit shaky. In The Greatest Hits, we never really learn how Harriet got this power. Also, I’m not particularly sure what the end of the film is trying to say, but let’s summarize it and try to understand. This is The Greatest Hits.

Spoiler Alert

How do David and Harriet meet? 

The Greatest Hits begins with a montage of scenes of a beautiful romance in the past. A disheveled Harriet stands in front of her record player and contemplates whether she should press play or not. She starts the record player, grabs a seat (a vintage-looking couch), and then passes out to wake up in a car with Max. She tells Max she knows what’s going to happen next and asks him to stop the car, not make the right that will eventually lead to his death, but he’s unbothered. The car gets hit, and title credits roll in. Harriet wakes up in the present day to the sound of her alarm. She wears headphones everywhere she goes to make sure she doesn’t time travel in public places, and she goes to grief counseling sessions that don’t seem to be helping her. “Loss may be forever, but grief is momentary” is the motto of the group, yet for Harriet, things are quite different, no? It’s Max’s death anniversary the next day, and the counselor worries that Harriet hasn’t progressed at all (because she really hasn’t). After the session, Harriet drops her headphones while driving and accidentally hits the bumper of the car in front of her. There’s music playing, and as she steps out, she passes out again. This song takes her to a fancy party, and soon, we learn that if she unplugs the musical device in the past, she comes back to the present. 

Harriet’s friend Morris worries for her, too. In fact, it seems he’s the only person who’s stood her through this time and knows about her time-traveling adventures. It seems that every night, Harriet’s been sitting on the vintage couch, playing records that will take her back in time so she can see Max again. She’s also looking for a particular song that will take her back to a particular moment, one that she thinks can save Max, but she hasn’t had any luck yet. Harriet and Max first met at a music festival when he asked to toke a hit from her, and she drew him in with her future talk, telling him she knows that their love will end tragically. He doesn’t believe her, of course, but her self-confidence is enigmatic, and he asks her to join him up front, and she does. 

In the meantime, David’s the new guy in the grief group, and he accidentally interrupts Harriet’s first-ever speech in the group by dropping some chairs. He tries to apologize, but she falls over, dropping  a set of invites for a DJ event at a record store where Morris is playing. He’s intrigued, keeps one of the invites, and actually shows up. I suppose it’s the quickest and strangest way to have a meet-cute, but somehow it works, you know? He buys a record at the store, one that Harriet wants as well, so he offers shared custody and asks for her number. Somehow, this actually works, and they meet at a coffee store, but Harriet still has her headphones on. She says it’s a medical condition and she can’t really take them off, but when he’s extra nice, and they’re vibing with each other after he tells her that he’s part of the grief group because he lost both his parents (oof), she decides to hand them to him. Immediately, it’s a big mistake because the song playing at the cafe leads her back to a memory with Max. Harriet realizes she’s made a mistake trying to see David and runs out of the cafe. On the other hand, David and his sister have a discussion about selling their parents’ store. Something David doesn’t want to do because, just like Harriet, he’s still somewhat stuck in the past. 

At the next grief session, Harriet apologizes and tells David she can make it up to him. He gives her another chance; they go out, and it seems they’re actually quite good for each other. However, things escalate when they’re in David’s vintage convertible, and Harriet’s suddenly feeling adventurous, so she takes off her headphones and kisses him deeply, only for the radio to play a song that played when she and Max were, um, doing the deed (yikes). This completely messes with Harriet’s head, but David drops her home, and after a brief moment of contemplation, she invites him in. 

When Does Harriet Time Travel? 

Harriet likes David, and she wants to trust him with the truth. Harriet says that after the accident, she had a head injury and was in a coma for about a week. Soon after, every time she heard a song that would give her insight into an important memory, it would take her to the time she and Max heard it for the first time together. There are logical loopholes, but this is a romance movie, so let’s move on. David thinks they’re hallucinations, and though he really likes Harriet, he asks her to take some time to figure things out. 

Does Harriet change the past? 

Morris tells Harriet that David is a great opportunity for her to move on. She’s been so stuck in the past that she’s pushed everyone who ever cared for her away. Harriet realizes he’s right and asks David for another chance. Again, things are on fire between them, but when they get to David’s place, Harriet realizes his parents’ shop is where Max bought the couch on the day Max died. She asks for a record player, and he’s surprised to hear that she knows about it. See, Harriet remembers she’s been there and now she knows she can find the song that was playing when Max bought the couch, eventually leading up to his death.  To prove to David that she really does time travel, she asks him for a spot that nobody else would know of. She tells David to go to that spot and then plays the record that she’s been looking for all this time, a Mozart that was playing when Max bought the chair at David’s parents’ shop. She tries to stop Max from buying the chair, but I think she’s realized by now that she can’t really change what he does, only what she has done in the past. She writes down the words David’s mom tells him on a piece of paper before she leaves the shop and puts them in the school desk that David told her about. In the present, David finds the note on the same desk. 

David asks Harriet if she can take him back to the past so he can see his parents again. Harriet apologizes because she can’t do that. Though he can’t time travel, David’s just as stuck as Harriet. However, now that he knows she’s telling the truth, David and Harriet are back together. For a time, it’s amazing, but Harriet ends up falling and hurting her head after hearing another song when David and she are out. This makes her realize what she needs to do, but it also means she’ll lose Max and David. Harriet gets David to be with her before she goes back to the past to the first time she and Max met one last time. The decision she had to make was to let go of Max before they even became a thing. Instead of joining him, Harriet tells Max to have fun and lets the love of her life walk away from her. This is a little bit strange because does this mean that they were accidentally together? That they were never meant to be? I’m not sure if this is really moving on because everyone will forget what happened between the two of them. 

During The Greatest Hits‘ ending, Harriet comes across Max and another woman and their dog. I guess the dog recognizes her? Though it’s just for us to know that Max is still alive and well, she did save his life. Instead of being holed up with headphones on all the time and having no dream job, she’s now producing music and is successful. Finally, she goes to a DJ night with Morris, and David stands next to her. The movie ends without them saying a word to each other but exchanging glances. I guess we’re supposed to expect them to get together eventually. Maybe it was always meant to be David and Harriet because they promised to find each other, and they did. So, I don’t think Harriet let go of the love of her life; she actually found him by letting go of her past. 

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Ruchika Bhat
Ruchika Bhat
When not tending to her fashion small business, Ruchika or Ru spends the rest of her time enjoying some cinema and TV all by herself. She's got a penchant for all things Korean and lives in drama world for the most part.

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