In general, futures are types of investment contracts wherin an agreement between parties is made to buy or sell a specified commodity, currency, security, stock, or other financial vehicle at a specified price and time in the future.
Futures are speculative transactions conducted across a major stock exchange in a futures market. They are binding contracts that must be legally completed.
No money is exchanged during these transactions, but parties are required to provide margin, a type of collateral offered to show serious intent and provide security for the transaction.
In general, options constitute situations wherein the right - but not obligation - to buy or sell a commodity, currency, debt, index, or stock at a specified time in the future at a fixed price.
Money is exchanged if cash flow from the seller to the buyer is involved.
Options are extremely complex and many different types exist.
Both futures and options are types of derivatives which are investment contracts between parties wherein the contracts' values are derived from agreement between the involved parties based on a theoretical future value of a bond, commodity, currency, stocks, etc.
Derivatives in and of themselves have no value; rather, values are determined by the contractual agreements between parties based on speculative future worth.
Derivatives are complex financial instruments and require a lot of attention and study to understand how they work.
This discussion has been adapted from the following sources:
Here's a brief list of journals that provide information on commodities and derivatives: