Change detection from satellite images provides scientific foundations for natural resource management, disaster mitigation, ecological environmental protection and sustainable development. Change detection based on optical remote sensing image has become an important research area in the field of remote sensing. Over the past 40 years, scholars worldwide have developed many methods on remote sensing image-based change detection. This paper attempts to review and analyze the research progress made in change detection from the perspectives of the key problems, methods, challenges and application areas. The research achievements made in the past 40 years are summarized based on the publications both internationally and in China; the state-of-the-art change detection methods is analyzed; and furthermore new research initiatives for the future research innovation are proposed.