The film follows the Miniver family, upper-class English living in a village outside London. The Minivers have a typical family's typical issues, such as their eldest son Vin wanting to marry Carol (Wright), granddaughter of Lady Beldon — but Britain's declaration of war soon gives them bigger things to worry about. Vin joins the RAF, mother Kay (Garson) mans the home front, and father Clem (Pidgeon) takes the family sailboat out one night at the end of May 1940 to a place called Dunkirk.
The film was considered a powerful weapon in the World War II propaganda campaign against the German Reich, as well as an outstanding artistic achievement, being nominated for twelve Academy Awards and winning six, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress for Teresa Wright, and Best Cinematography.
Based on a 1940 novel of the same title. A less-well-remembered sequel, The Miniver Story (1950), picked up the Minivers after the war, with Garson and Pidgeon reprising their roles.
This film provides examples of:
- Anyone Can Die: Carol says, near the end, that she accepts that Vincent might be killed in the war, and that she intends to enjoy the rest of the time she gets to spend with him — she'll have the rest of her life to mourn. And then, when Mrs. Miniver is trying to drive Carol home that night, and parks to watch the aeronautical action, some plane strafes the Minivers' car. Mrs. Miniver is okay (she didn't realize the car had actually been shot); Carol... isn't.
- Artistic License Biology: Apparently a rose grown in August can still be alive and in bloom the following June.
- Author Filibuster: At the end of the film. Tropes Are Not Bad — it's considered the film's Signature Scene.
- Bloodless Carnage: We see two people who were shot close up. We do not see either of them bleeding.
- Curse Cut Short: When Mr. Ballard dares to challenge Lady Beldon at the rose contest, one of his friends says that Beldon should have stuck to the railway (he's a conductor). An irritated Mr. Ballard says "and the railway can go to—" and a church bell rings.
- Dangerous Deserter: He isn't a deserter, he's a German pilot who got shot down over England. But in every other respect, the pilot that holds Mrs. Miniver hostage in her kitchen while demanding food and milk is this.
- English Rose: Carol and Kay, Carol more so due to being younger and of good birth. Both are also connected to the symbolism via the rose contest.
- Fighter-Launching Sequence: Vin's wing of Spitfires is shown taking off from the airfield to meet the Germans.
- Genteel Interbellum Setting: This film is about the transition between Christie Time and World War II.
- Grande Dame: Lady Beldon, who is very aware of her family's noble heritage and very snobby and classist. The necessities of World War II humanizer her quite a bit.
- Hollywood Night: Lampshaded; Mr. Miniver turns off the lights so he can open the windows and notes that it's bright as day out there. Yes, Hollywood Night can occur in black & white films. It's especially egregious in this case as the town is under wartime blackout, meaning there aren't any streetlights.
- Ironic Echo: There is a church scene near the beginning of the film and a church scene at the end. The same hymn in both. But the church looks very different...
- Kill the Cutie: Subverted Trope with Vincent, Double Subversion with Carol.
- Kindhearted Cat Lover: The Miniver family has a huge black and white cat. Their youngest child, Toby, is particularly attached to the sweet animal.
- Law of Conservation of Normality: Even during World War II, during periods of bombing, there will still be roses and flower shows. And just because a building has been bombed out doesn't mean you have to stop using it.
- Nice Hat: The opening sequence concerns Kay purchasing an ornate hat with a big feather sticking up and a long ribbon dangling.
- No Ending: The war was still going when this was filmed.
- Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Americans Walter Pidgeon and Teresa Wright, playing Britons.
- "Pan Up to the Sky" Ending: The final shot pans up from the congregation in the church to a giant hole in the roof of the church, caused by a German bomb. Then British fighter planes zip past the clouds visible through the roof, and the movie ends.
- Plot-Relevant Age-Up: Vincent. In the book, he had just started at Eton, making him a 14-to-15-year-old high school freshman, far too young to join the RAF.
- Pretty in Mink: Several fur coats and fur muffs are worn.
- Racist Grandma: Lady Beldon again. Though "Classist Grandma" may be more accurate.
- Second-Hand Storytelling: There are several plot-important battles, but the only one we get to see is the last one.
- Sleeping Single: Maybe the Minivers conceived those children by osmosis.
- Tokyo Rose: The "German friend of England" (likely Lord Haw-Haw) who sends radio messages to England, trying to demoralize the citizens of England and push the country out of the war. The English just laugh him off.
- Twist Ending: The main source of dramatic tension in the movie is the fate of Vin, who has joined the RAF. The Minivers worry about him, Lady Beldon doesn't want her granddaughter widowed young like she was, and Carol herself says that she has to face the possibility of losing Vin. However, as it happens, it's Carol who is killed in a Luftwaffe raid, while Vin goes through the Battle of France and the Battle of Britain without a scratch.
- What You Are in the Dark: Lady Beldon ultimately chooses to pretend the Miniver rose did win the rose competition, with only the Miniver family and the judges the wiser.