Abstract In this paper, we introduced a remote sensing image denoising method based on generalized morphological component analysis (GMCA). This novel algorithm is the further extension of morphological component analysis (MCA) algorithm to the blind source separation framework. The iterative thresholding strategy adopted by GMCA algorithm firstly works on the most significant features in the image, and then progressively incorporates smaller features to finely tune the parameters of whole model. Mathematical analysis of the computational complexity of GMCA algorithm is provided. Several comparison experiments with state-of-the-art denoising algorithms are reported. In order to make quantitative assessment of algorithms in experiments, Peak Signal to Noise Ratio (PSNR) index and Structural Similarity (SSIM) index are calculated to assess the denoising effect from the gray-level fidelity aspect and the structure-level fidelity aspect, respectively. Quantitative analysis on experiment results, which is consistent with the visual effect illustrated by denoised images, has proven that the introduced GMCA algorithm possesses a marvelous remote sensing image denoising effectiveness and ability. It is even hard to distinguish the original noiseless image from the recovered image by adopting GMCA algorithm through visual effect.