Facial expression modeling is central to facial expression recognition and expression synthesis for facial animation. In this work, we propose a manifold-based 3D face reconstruction approach to estimating the 3D face model and the associated expression deformation from a single face image. With the proposed robust weighted feature map (RWF), we can obtain the dense correspondences between 3D face models and build a nonlinear 3D expression manifold from a large set of 3D facial expression models. Then a Gaussian mixture model in this manifold is learned to represent the distribution of expression deformation. By combining the merits of morphable neutral face model and the low-dimensional expression manifold, a novel algorithm is developed to reconstruct the 3D face geometry as well as the facial deformation from a single face image in an energy minimization framework. Experimental results on simulated and real images are shown to validate the effectiveness and accuracy of the proposed algorithm.