Composite function minimization captures a wide spectrum of applications in both computer vision and machine learning. It includes bound constrained optimization and cardinality regularized optimization as special cases. This paper proposes and analyzes a new Matrix Splitting Method (MSM) for minimizing composite functions. It can be viewed as a generalization of the classical Gauss-Seidel method and the Successive Over-Relaxation method for solving linear systems in the literature. Incorporating a new Gaussian elimination procedure, the matrix splitting method achieves state-of-the-art performance. For convex problems, we establish the global convergence, convergence rate, and iteration complexity of MSM, while for non-convex problems, we prove its global convergence. Finally, we validate the performance of our matrix splitting method on two particular applications: nonnegative matrix factorization and cardinality regularized sparse coding. Extensive experiments show that our method outperforms existing composite function minimization techniques in term of both efficiency and efficacy.