Svindal won in 1 minute, 30.34 seconds on a tough, icy track that gave many racers problems staying within the blue lines guiding the course.
Miller was second, trailing by 0.28 seconds, and Andrew Weibrecht of Lake Placid, N.Y., was 0.31 behind Svindal in third. The United States has six Alpine medals in four races, its most ever, with six events remaining. Norway, with two, is the only other country with more than one medal.
Americans won five Alpine medals - three golds and two silvers - at the 1984 Sarajevo Games, when the program included only six races.
When Svindal finished, Miller looked on clapping and smiling broadly from the leader's standing spot beside the finish area.
Miller said he got his medal by skiing aggressively.
"You had to be willing to risk everything. All of us - Andrew, myself, Aksel - had sections where we almost blew out, where we barely made it," he said. "When you're pushing that hard and you have that much desire to get to the finish, it's usually what separates those hundreths of a second."
Miller's fourth career Olympic medal - in four different events - makes him the most decorated American Alpine skier in history. He also got silvers in giant slalom and combined at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games.
Miller delivered an expert run that challenged racers' ability to be fast while showing technical skills to keep control through the turns. "I skied the top almost as well as I could the first 30 seconds," he said.
The 32-year-old Miller and 24-year-old Weibrecht became the first American men to get medals in the same Alpine event since twins Phil and Steve Mahre went 1-2 in the slalom at Sarajevo. Americans Lindsey Vonn and Julia Mancuso were 1-2 in the women's downhill Wednesday.
Svindal took silver in the downhill Monday, leaving Miller with the bronze. The 27-year-old Svindal peaked at the right time after a difficult season trying to defend his World Cup overall title. He had a left knee injury in October and was sidelined by a bout of flu over the New Year's holiday.
"It's been a lot of work getting to where I need to be for winning races," Svindal said.
He said his downhill result took the pressure off.
"I felt like it was the last thing I was thinking at the start gate - 'You already have a silver and it can only get better, so enjoy this and give it all you have. Don't hold anything back.' "
It was the first elite-level podium finish for Weibrecht, who has never finished better than 10th in a World Cup race.
"I haven't ever come down leading a race," he said. He started third and "figured I would stay in there until 10 guys came down. But I kept staying in there."
Svindal, starting No. 19, eight places after Miller, trailed the American by 0.30 seconds at the first time split but made up the difference and had a 0.02 lead at the halfway point. He extended his lead along the bottom half of the course. The big Norwegian was clocked at 114.8 kph (71.3 mph) at a speed check where Miller went through at 110.9 kph (62.7 mph).