Ivan's Childhood was one of Tarkovsky's most commercially successful films, selling 16.7 million tickets in the Soviet Union. Tarkovsky himself was displeased with some aspects of the film; in his book Sculpting in Time, he writes at length about subtle changes to certain scenes that he regrets not implementing. However, the film received numerous awards and international acclaim on its release, winning the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. It attracted the attention of many intellectuals, including Ingmar Bergman who said, "My discovery of Tarkovsky's first film was like a miracle. Suddenly, I found myself standing at the door of a room the keys of which had, until then, never been given to me. It was a room I had always wanted to enter and where he was moving freely and fully at ease.
Jean-Paul Sartre wrote an article on the film, defending it against a highly critical article in the Italian newspaper L'Unita and saying that it is one of the most beautiful films he had ever seen. Filmmakers Sergei Parajanov and Krzysztof Kieślowski praised the film and cited it as an influence on their work.