Filtered Top Subset

Minimum MongoDB Version: 4.2


You want to query a collection of people to find the three youngest people who have a job in engineering, sorted by the youngest person first.

This example is the only one in the book that you can also achieve entirely using MQL and serves as a helpful comparison between MQL and Aggregation Pipelines.

Sample Data Population

Drop any old version of the database (if it exists) and then populate a new persons collection with 5 person documents:

use book-filtered-top-subset;

// Create an index for a persons collection
db.persons.createIndex({"vocation": 1, "dateofbirth": 1});

// Insert records into the persons collection
    "person_id": "6392529400",
    "firstname": "Elise",
    "lastname": "Smith",
    "dateofbirth": ISODate("1972-01-13T09:32:07Z"),
    "vocation": "ENGINEER",
    "address": { 
        "number": 5625,
        "street": "Tipa Circle",
        "city": "Wojzinmoj",
    "person_id": "1723338115",
    "firstname": "Olive",
    "lastname": "Ranieri",
    "dateofbirth": ISODate("1985-05-12T23:14:30Z"),    
    "gender": "FEMALE",
    "vocation": "ENGINEER",
    "address": {
        "number": 9303,
        "street": "Mele Circle",
        "city": "Tobihbo",
    "person_id": "8732762874",
    "firstname": "Toni",
    "lastname": "Jones",
    "dateofbirth": ISODate("1991-11-23T16:53:56Z"),    
    "vocation": "POLITICIAN",
    "address": {
        "number": 1,
        "street": "High Street",
        "city": "Upper Abbeywoodington",
    "person_id": "7363629563",
    "firstname": "Bert",
    "lastname": "Gooding",
    "dateofbirth": ISODate("1941-04-07T22:11:52Z"),    
    "vocation": "FLORIST",
    "address": {
        "number": 13,
        "street": "Upper Bold Road",
        "city": "Redringtonville",
    "person_id": "1029648329",
    "firstname": "Sophie",
    "lastname": "Celements",
    "dateofbirth": ISODate("1959-07-06T17:35:45Z"),    
    "vocation": "ENGINEER",
    "address": {
        "number": 5,
        "street": "Innings Close",
        "city": "Basilbridge",
    "person_id": "7363626383",
    "firstname": "Carl",
    "lastname": "Simmons",
    "dateofbirth": ISODate("1998-12-26T13:13:55Z"),    
    "vocation": "ENGINEER",
    "address": {
        "number": 187,
        "street": "Hillside Road",
        "city": "Kenningford",

Aggregation Pipeline

Define a pipeline ready to perform the aggregation:

var pipeline = [
  // Match engineers only
  {"$match": {
    "vocation": "ENGINEER",
  // Sort by youngest person first
  {"$sort": {
    "dateofbirth": -1,
  // Only include the first 3 youngest people
  {"$limit": 3},  

  // Exclude unrequired fields from each person record
  {"$unset": [


Execute the aggregation using the defined pipeline and also view its explain plan:


Expected Results

Three documents should be returned, representing the three youngest people who are engineers (ordered by youngest first), omitting the _id or address attributes of each person, as shown below:

    person_id: '7363626383',
    firstname: 'Carl',
    lastname: 'Simmons',
    dateofbirth: ISODate('1998-12-26T13:13:55.000Z')
    person_id: '1723338115',
    firstname: 'Olive',
    lastname: 'Ranieri',
    dateofbirth: ISODate('1985-05-12T23:14:30.000Z'),
    gender: 'FEMALE'
    person_id: '6392529400',
    firstname: 'Elise',
    lastname: 'Smith',
    dateofbirth: ISODate('1972-01-13T09:32:07.000Z')


  • Index Use. A basic aggregation pipeline, where if many records belong to the collection, a compound index for vocation + dateofbirth should exist to enable the database to fully optimise the execution of the pipeline combining the filter of the $match stage with the sort from the sort stage and the limit of the limit stage.

  • Unset Use. An $unset stage is used rather than a $project stage. This enables the pipeline to avoid being verbose. More importantly, it means the pipeline does not have to be modified if a new field appears in documents added in the future (for example, see the gender field that appears in only Olive's record).

  • MQL Similarity. For reference, the MQL equivalent for you to achieve the same result is shown below (you can try this in the Shell):

        {"vocation": "ENGINEER"},
        {"_id": 0, "vocation": 0, "address": 0},
        {"dateofbirth": -1}